Stop Excusing Our Young Men

“My mother used to say, ‘Boy, you got yourself into it, get yourself out of it,’” says Dr. Ethel Allen Promise Academy Principal Woolworth Davis.

In this Web-exclusive video, Davis explains why parents must stop making excuses for their sons and instead teach them responsibility.

Watch and share your thoughts. Are we making too many excuses for our young men?

  • sharrocks

    I think that legitimate excuses has ran there course. Yes there are dispariites but they exist for boys and girls, and I don’t believe we should begin to separate the 2 because we focused on disparities of Black men long ago and Black women wasn’t given that but we stayed supportive never-the-less and we press on. But I believe we try to finish this fight together, for both of our children or each is going to find themselves swimming against the tide on their own.

  • Miki Racine

    I think the disparities that exist in educational achievement (I.e. graduation rates) is multi-fold and I do share the belief that we as a race have to stop with the excuses. At the heart of the problem I strongly believe that a big portion of our failures stem from a lack of ‘personal responsibility’ our teachers, school (as bad as they might be) can only do so much. It is up to the parents and to a bigger degree the student to ensure that there’s daily reinforcement taking place at the home. The teaching profession is overworked and underpaid and so we pretty much get what we pay for. A teacher once told me, that in the first stage of a students education or learning process he/she learn to read and then the next stage that child must read to learn a lit of our youth and adults never make it pass that 2nd stage and so as a result they stagnate and never fully learn ‘how to learn’. Nonetheless, there’s people in 3rd world countries, like Haiti where my parents are from, who would do anything to have the opportunity of a free (well sort of) k-12 education and would take all the necessary steps to see it that they succeed. So while I firmly believe in personal responsibility, I do recognize that children in the majority inner city schools have a harder time due to poor schools, lack of resources, etc. But at the same time, at what point do we step up and take control of our fate & challenge ourselves to want a better education, a better future, a better way of life? At what point do we step up and take responsibility? At what point?

  • life33

    Point well said why do we look for someone else to make us better… We as a people have to want more….

  • Lizzzzzz

    I am a white woman 63 years old, and I live in a mostly black neighborhood. As a young woman I had many amazing teachers who were Black, and provided me with the best role models a young person could have. As a result I grew to be an adult that had no fear of nor lower expectations from my black neighbors.
    This is what I have observed, I have listened to the lyrics of music play by my neighbors sons, they are not anything I could repeat in public. I have seen them emulate the rappers who are in and out of jail in manners, or lack of, and dress.
    The biggest thing I see, and it frightens me, is the little boys, making sure to learn the swagger, and the filthy language of the older men and boys.
    If Black men do not look at themselves, living off the money they get selling drugs, betting on sports and mooching from their girlfriends and wives, and see that that they will set a very bad example for there sons, and daughters, then the next generation is doomed.
    I have neighbors who teach the young men in there homes the right way, who see them onto the school bus in the AM, and check to see what homework they have at night. They take them to sporting events where the young people play, and cheer them on.
    More of this and less emulating rappers and professional ball players who fight dogs and beat up women, is the key to a better future.

    How it looks from where I sit, watching the basket ball game between school age boys, who have school today, and grown men who have no visable means of support.
    The picture is grim.

  • Natalia Riesgo

    I sent a tweet to Tavis last week defending black men, yes there is still the issue of racism, most of incarcerated men are black, etc… I live in the hood in Brooklyn and some of my best friends are black men so I know what I’m talking about. My current boyfriend is from Jamaica and he is been working at a grocerie store full time for the last 3 years. Two of my exboyfriends are black american and I was coming today from a job interview they were both sitting on the street as they always do. One of them is 19 and I told him he should go back to college, he said he has other things to worry about. You know Tavis if you are reading this the facilities they give you in this country if you dedicate yourself in college, you can get as high as you want no matter the color you are, you didn’t have it easy Tavis, I remember when you went to college without the money for the room and you slept outside, and everything worked out because you had the determination to win. All this American black men can do the same thing. I ‘m from Spain and believe me things are much more dificult there, at least you have here the great opportunity of going to college & making a great life, there is not discrimination in college, and if you are and athlete they make things easier.


    As obvious as this might sound, the man in the house makes a whole lot of difference, kids raising kids is a formula for disaster, don’t get me wrong, I am a Nigerian and women as young as 15/16 do have babies in Nigeria, but they do that in their husbands house and all the family support that comes with that, makes a lot of difference, I mean it ought to be a crime what is going in our community and this is self inflicted, we are doing this to our self it is nobodies fault but ours. What to do, first lets start by calling a spade a spade, the role models our kids are exposed to are atrocious to say the least, and the fact that there is no adult supervision when they come back from school is objectionable, yeah the bills have to be paid somehow, and that brings me to my first observation, a man in the house, right away the bills will be halfed. Raising a child cannot be a solo effort, our men need to step up to their responsibility, I know it is easier said than done. I know we can’t go back to the days when a lawyer lives next door to a man that works in a barber shop and a doctor lives next door to a family headed by a man with a high school education who works in the construction industry etc……… those days are gone forever, we are faced with what we have now, my heart bleeds for our community, coming from where I come from, and seeing the opportunities that exist in this country and seeing how some men behave makes me wanna cry sometimes. A Nigerian friend of mine owns a graphic design business, he employs about 4 African American men, grown men, not kids in school, grown men, anyway these guys will collect their paycheck on Friday and he wont hear from them again until they have spent all that money, these guys have kids by the way, in most cases from more than one woman. I am sorry I am a bit emotional about this subject, because as an African man the USA represent a great resource for us as Africans, for example, Europe today will not what it is without the investment from America, the Marshal plan for Europe in todays dollars is over $300 billion, and we can’t even have enough influence to have avoided the hurricane Kathrina disaster or give the same status to Haitian refugees as to the one given to Cuban refugees or have a black owned TV station I am not talking about BET either, I am talking about serious TV that deals with serious subjects. But I am a die hard optimist I know the black community will raise up and do the right thing and take it’s rightful place in the scheme of things. Thank God for the likes of Tavis Smiley, we need 50 more like him.

  • mrdaveo

    I’d like to break my comment down into 2 parts: 1. Self-patience and 2. Family! Almost all young men of all races have no patience! It’s a fact, as a teen in the late 1980’s I wanted all the nice clothes, gold chains and air jordans and most of my peers quit school just to sell drugs to get these things. They quit school not because they had to but because they wanted to. We have to preach patience to our young adults! Secondly, its all about family! It’s simple math folks… Fathers be fathers, mothers be mothers, and children stop having children! before we do anything else lets get back to having a sense of accountability for starters! I’m proud to say I’m a product of the NYC (harlem) public school system from 1976-1989. If I can make it out, anyone can! Sure it was rough at times but thats where my FAMILY can in; Fathers, uncles, aunts, friends! The family unit!

  • Patrick

    This problem is one which is also being experienced here in the Caribbean also.I read what lizzzzz had to say,and it carries a whole lot of weight.Teachers years ago here in Barbados,played a great role,the same as lizzzz said,and I believe we were taught better.These days I find a lot of the teachers are young university graduates and I do not beleive they have the true love and dedication for teaching and also in giving guidance to the children.
    But,they are also those who are making a special effort to instill values and give real guidance.The distractions that are around are also impacting on those who as lizzzz said,need to emulate the rappers,drug pushers and even politicians.We have most if not all of the fallout of negatives from the american system here.
    I see they are a number of Principals here fighting to guide the youth in the positive direction, a great task,but there seem to results.If these rappers,basketball players,football players sit down and check the untold damage they are doing by their behaviour(in and out of jail,drving drunk,beating up on their own and women) instead go into the school system and give these young people the better option in making a better life,socially,education and all,then,maybe,the young black man and woman,will have a better chance to their futures.Yes,there is no guarantee you will get a job or start your own business,but you have something noone can take from you.EDUCATION.
    Kudos to persons like Oprah and shool pricipals who have seen the need to push education and life skills in the Black communities despite the challenges.

  • ReesieTheRealest

    First of all, there are LEGITIMATE and IL-LEGITIMATE ‘excuses’ or reasons. I can’t seem to shake the REALITY that we must remember that as ‘black’ people we are UNDER SIEGE in this country. The is no such thing as PARITY in a system where you can be literally HUNTED DOWN by random circumstance. So ‘excuses’ don’t hold much water with me when such extreme circumstances are being faced. The RESPONSIBILITY falls on the PARENTS and what they are teaching these children about the reality, and their fate in light of crucial decisions they will be faced with in this lifetime. My opinion is that THIS is the biggest travesty and shame; the parents are so DERELICT in their approach to parenting, and then we want to go and BLAME the child?? Like Iyanla said once “If you wanna check the fruit, you gotta look at THE TREE”! And I couldn’t agree with her more! We as adults must look at OURSELVES when it comes to questions of our childrens performance.

  • muriel schnierow

    i have talked with very small children who are visitors- i recall a 4 year old-i talked to her about college about manners and a month later she was repeating my words. i made the mistake of pampering my son and he shows it.

  • Janice

    enuf said, it looks like he is a good principal and we need more like that. I absolutely 100% agree with what he said.

  • tonya marie

    The principle, or superintendent said that the mothers are making excuses, but then later affirms that these excuses are very real situations in the home life that weigh on the students when they come into the school. Why are BW being told not to “pamper” our sons, other children are pampered from cradle to grave, and these ones have no problem performing in school. It would seem to me that it is the harshness around them, that they don’t need. Of course one’s situation can’t become the crutch.

    If a child loses his father at 6 months old and the mother didn’t have another wellspring of support (do not count “the system”), then yes there are going to be experiences in that child’s life that affect him as a pattern later on during his growth cycles.
    That’s just one example. Or if the mother is un-employed, then that will affect his performance, because it affects his health. Heal the home and you heal the child. There’s nothing pampered in doing that, we owe it to our communities to see that our families are looked after, even if they are non-traditional.

    There has to be a wholistic approach to connecting the generations of men; abandoning the child and mother financially, and / or emotionally is simply self-destructive. We must allow our male children the benefit of an emotional intelligence. Don’t treat them like men, when they are boys. Stop telling them to man up and not cry. Allow them to connect with their feelings, and to express themselves without feeling weakened. The must be taught how to balance their energy, and work together, rather than seeing one another as rejected and unwanted

    The Developmental Psychology of the Black Child gives a lot of in depth real look at the disparities, whether this episode will highlight those issues (from an afrocentric scholarly viewpoint), will remain to be sen.

  • myownthoughts…

    It’s hard to expect our children to compete with children from more affluent neighborhoods, when parents are not training them to. We as a people need to stop making excuses and take care of business. We need to get back to the roots of “the village raising the child”. Education, discipline, respect, morals, values, love, kindness, fairness, self esteem, frugality…they all START at HOME!! You can not break your neck and bank account buying the top brand hand bags and shoes, and expect that your children wont copy the pattern. By any means necessary! So its no wonder why most of our male children are in jail for crimes that involve them “making some money”.
    I have a 12 year old step daughter who told me this: “why would I want to be independent, when being dependent is so much easier?” When children observe the behavior of ADULTS, please believe, they are paying very close attention. They see those who are always dressed down, with their hair and nails done, but no job to provide these luxuries. They see the “project and welfare minded” ADULTS in their lives who live off of others, who have limited educations themselves, and see that this is the easy way out. Why work hard when I can still eat, live and have fun with no effort! We have ALLOWED this to go on far too long. In my opinion, there needs to be a movement of ERADICATION AND RESTORATION. We need to rid our society of those who dont want ANYTHING out of life, but want others to pay their way. Then we need to restore the faith, love, support, humbleness and respect in our people. There are only two choices, you get with the program, or you get to live in the self contained, self supported “projects” with like minded individuals. You have no contact with us, we wont need contact with you!

  • Katherine

    Our young African American males in the United States are capable of greatness if the family would invest in their nurturing. We are responsible for all the children collectively. The fathers who are in prison can not raise their sons from behind prisons walls, they can convience them that they are loved but they can not raise them behind prison walls. At three years old a child is open to be filled with affirmations and possibilties. thanks for waking up the people to these truths. The universe is conspiring for my good.

  • EStevens


  • Karen E. Dabney

    Yes. Just that handshake or nod and eye contact from an older black man to a black boy can make all the difference. We all want to be acknowledged. As Principal Davis stated, these children are coming to school with a lot on their backs. They need to find solace and achievement in school in order to escape from the problems at home and on the streets.

  • Barbara Giordano

    Children regardless of race must hear the importance of education from the time of birth. Parents can take a proactive role by reading to their babies and don’t stop. Set the example and advocate for them in schools. If a child has learning challenges, he/she becomes much more aware of where they stand compared to their peers in 3rd and 4th grade. That is why a strong foundation must be set. And, we need to hold our children accountable for their actions and teach them to take responsibility. This helps them to build a strong character and self esteem. Children also need to see their parents interest in school work by attending parent/teacher meetings, PTA and always taking a vested interested.

  • patti

    We have to first let our kids know we love them unconditionally. The kids have to come first and then your working life. As a teacher for years I learned that children will behave if you respect them. I always gave my art student jobs to help me and they enjoyed it. Most importantly the child has to feel safe to learn. If they are acting out it is usually and with boys in particular a cry for help or something they can’t communicate. Art is a wonderful subject to teach because there really is no right or wrong just learning by doing. I look forward to sharing art with my grandchildren. Good luck to all the wonderful teachers out there. I hope someday you earn the salary you deserve. You are creating the leaders of our future.

  • Curtis Robinson

    I saw your program on PBS the other night. I was moved by the theme and sub-topics in the presentation.
    Yes, we must say to African American young men that they have a responsibility to themselves, their family, and the world. It is a big responsibility. One way to meet or live up to this responsibility is for them to engage the education system, with all of its negative barrels, in order to survive.

    We had to engage it with many of the same obstacles. So that we could fulfill our role in the world. What makes the African American male of today any different. These young men must do the same.

    As a college instructor at Miles College, I demand responsibility from my students, especially, the young men. I have to re-enforce this idea, because for some reason they seem to act-like, they have forgotten what it means to be a student seeking a higher level of education. But, I remind them that
    what was required in their high school setting, even more will be expected from me in this course.

    I try get these young men who have registered for the course that I teach to understand, they must continue to be responsibile persons and continue their life long journey of receiving an education. In order to fulfill
    their life’s destiny, and perhaps along the way, they can help someone and thereby make this world a little better.

  • Ath A.

    Some of it has to do with family values; with a sense of entitlement; some of it with society (class system); a lack of leadership and a commitment to the children and giving our kids the education they deserve.. It is difficult to pin point one thing. I truly believe it is a combination of things. There is definitely a generational gap and today a technological divide. Today rather than reading or writing a paper, everyone is Texting or on Google. No one can tell me that the US does not have issues with race and that we are living in a post racial society (Why, because we have a Black President. I think race has come even more into the forefront). We can all pretend to turn a blind eye, but it is there — schools on the “wrong side” of the track have no libraries or if they do, the books are outdated; no computer labs, etc, teachers have to use their own monies to buy supplies; while schools on the “right side” of the track have more resources. Where is the educational equality. What has been the aftermath of the Brown vs Board of Education (1954) case. In some cases we have been our own obstacle. In Carter G. Goodson’s book, “The Mis-Education of the Negro”, it reads “… The problem of holding the Negro down, therefore, is easily solved. When you control a man’s thinking, you do no have to worry about his actions. … You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary. The same educational process which inspires and stimulates the oppressor with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything worth while, depresses and crushes at the same time the spark of genius in the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and never will measure up to the standards of other peoples.” I have no answers, but this book was first published in 1933 and it is now 2011, 78 years later.

Last modified: August 31, 2011 at 10:53 am
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