Last Friday I attended a MILES meeting. For those who don’t know what MILES is Men Incorporating Leadership and Exploration through Service. I enjoy going to MILES. You can always learn something new if you keep an open mind. In our MILES meeting, we had a guest speaker and Geneseo Alum Mr. Andre Doeman come in to discuss minorities and their misrepresentation as well as stereotypes in the media. Doeman talked a lot about his experiences teaching in the inner-city of Rochester. Most of the kids he teaches are of disenfranchised backgrounds. They have a shared culture of poverty which puts well within the achievement gap as we learned from Chipman The Power of Realistic Expectations.
Mr. Doeman explains how all the kids he teaches have similar dreams. They all dream of being professional athletes, actors, or rappers and the like. He noticed very few had dreams of being doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, or other types of well-educated professionals. He when he asked his students why did they dream to be basketball players and rappers and not something else. What made those careers appeal to them over all the other possibilities. He was meet with blank stares by most of them. Not one of them had a concrete reason. No one had ever stopped to question their motives. The majority of them didn’t question it themselves. Why is that?
He came to an epiphany. He realized the kids he works with only have exposure to those influences. All if any of the successful men and women of color they see are in those career fields. In an article, I read titled The Racial Achievement Gap, Segregated Schools, and Segregated Neighborhoods: A Constitutional Insult The author Rothenstein claims “if a child grows up in a poor neighborhood, moving up and out to a middle-class area is typical for whites but an aberration for blacks. Black neighborhood poverty is thus more multigenerational, while white neighborhood poverty is more episodic” One of the only outside influences that circumvent the achievement gap is media influence. Doeman explained that one of the greatest things to combat negative self-image in children of color is to have positive role models in the media they consume. What do kids all watch? Cartoons. What do cartoons often have? Super heroes. How many superheroes of color exist. The answer is not many. The ones that do have little to no screenplay. He brought up a point that I found very interesting. If we have more superheroes of color perhaps we would have more aspiring heroes in communities of color.