- Black Men in College: Implications for HBCUs and Beyond ed. by Robert T. Palmer and J. Luke Wood
Undoubtedly, the current state of education for Black men in the United States is dismal. Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon. History provides a salient reminder of society's inability to provide equitable opportunities and resources for the advancement of Black men. The underachievement, lack of inclusion, and backward progression of Black men within American society, particularly in educational settings, is a trend that demands immediate attention. The challenges of reversing these negative circumstances, however, are daunting. It at once requires reconceptualization of the plight of the individual (Black Man), while transforming the broad, yet piercing issues that have impeded them—social, political, economical, psychological, and educational issues that are deep-rooted in the fabric of American culture. Though society champions a rhetoric of concern and a desire to advance the status of all people, including Black men, these very same practices and policies are framed in ideologies of oppression, prejudice, and marginalization. This dilemma has positioned Black males in the lower echelons of society, creating perhaps a lower set of expectations for them across a number of arenas.
Accordingly, the longstanding marginalization of Black men has great consequences on their educational attainment. This is most visible in the representation of Black men in college. Much of the failure to enroll, educate, and retain Black men in college can be attributed to the treatment of them as a homogenous group. Over the last 20 years, educational research focusing on the experiences of Black men in college has evolved, acknowledging various subpopulations within the community of Black male collegians. Disaggregating data concerning this population has been particularly important in highlighting the ways in which Black men differ in their perceptions, performance, and interests, thereby dispelling myths of monolithic experiences. Still, there is relatively little empirical research that examines Black [End Page 111] males across multiple institution types. For example, there is a paucity of research on Black male students attending historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), despite the instrumental role that HBCUs play in producing almost 20% of Black undergraduate degrees, while only making up 3% of the institutions of higher education in this country.
Black Men in College: Implications for HBCUs and Beyond, edited by Robert T. Palmer and J. Luke Wood, seeks to fill this gap in the literature, providing important information about how to effectively support and retain Black male undergraduates at HBCUs. Not only does this edited collection shine light on the important role HBCUs play in educating Black male college students, but it also acknowledges the abundant diversity within the Black male population, within these institutions, and the need for further exploration of these areas. In their contribution, the editors of the book provide a comprehensive examination of data regarding Black males attending HBCUs. Using extant literature, they identify the gaps, arguing for more intentional investigations of the within-group differences of Black males at HBCUs. Much of the present research on this population, they argue, "treats this subgroup as monolithic, assuming homogeneity of their experiences, challenges, and supports" (p. 11).
Chapters 2 and 3 look at the experiences of two distinct subgroups at HBCUs, high achievers and gay Black men. In chapter 2, Marybeth Gasman and Dorsey Spencer provide insight on the experiences of Black men at HBCUs who have been able to effectively navigate their experiences in college, ultimately achieving high levels of success. They argue that "too often, Black men at HBCUs are seen as underperforming and underprepared for higher education.... However there are many Black men who are eager to pursue all avenues of support in college" (p. 24). They additionally conclude with recommendations for practice and research, urging HBCUs to play a more intentional role in providing spaces for faculty interaction as well as undergraduate research. More specifically, there is a need for a large scale, longitudinal study of Black students at HBCUs and Black men in particular...