William Julius Wilson’s piece, The Truly Disadvantaged, analyzes and provides evidence for structural components that reinforce poverty and the lack of social resources within the black inner city population.  Wilson argues that the economy, historic discrimination, and certain shifts in the inner city have strongly influenced what kind of lifestyle inner city blacks live.  Some of the consequences for the structural strongholds hovering over this minority group are … “crime, drug addiction, out-of-wedlock births, female-headed families and welfare dependency” (Wilson 1987).

Although Wilson wrote this almost 25 years ago, it astounds me how some of the data he provided regarding blacks in the inner cities at the time tends to be relevant today.

Tavis Smiley, an African American author and television host on PBS, examines why young blacks are still struggling disproportionately compared to other racial groups in 2011.  He believes that education is the key to success and upward mobility in America, but that young black males are at a great disadvantage. Below is the a small clip and a link the full documentary: “Tavis Smiley Reports: Too Important To Fail.”



For full documentary, use this link:


Many of the young boys interviewed by Tavis Smiley acknowledge the lack of a good male role model who will hold them accountable for their actions, care for them and instruct them along a better path.  Wilson indicated this phenomenon with female-headed households and the steady rise in out-of-wedlock births since the mid-twentieth century.  When Smiley interviewed a group of young men housed in the Alameda County Juvenile Detention Center, they expressed that they believed education is important and that it could make a difference in one’s life.  Some also stated that although they found the school subjects interesting, they would not pay attention in class due to the traumatizing experiences they had early in their childhood, such as being exposed to friends and family being shot at and dying.

There are some schools in America that address the black males’ educational needs.  A school in Chicago, Urban Prep Academy for Young Men, is an all-male school where all of the students African American.  The instructors are also mainly black males.  Students in this school believe it is a benefit to have positive male role models, and people who will listen to them.  According to Tim King, the CEO of Urban Prep, 100 percent of graduates attend college.  He argues that these young people are receiving academic, social and emotional preparation for higher education and for a better life.  King and Smiley believe that education can change the direction of these youth and that given the proper tools, they are as likely to succeed as youth who are already raised with certain social privileges.


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