Today, as the father of two young women, I can tell you firsthand that while I continue to push for a society that doesn't disenfranchise them, I cannot ignore the reality that our young black men are facing unique and jarring challenges.
As grown-ups, we forget the power that we have to influence the adolescents that look up to us. We sit behind our televisions or computers and complain about the state of young America. However, we rarely lift a finger to change the existing condition or make a real difference.
Young black men understand that they are disposable as far as society at large is concerned, and they have internalized that message, often harming themselves in the process in addition to being harmed by others.
Don Lemon's comments are reminiscent of the media violence that has played out across news broadcast with reports that have called young black men crack babies, predators, dropouts, absentee fathers, and thugs. Reports that have captured the American imagination, and created moral panic.
The Trayvon Martin tragic injustice has sparked a long overdue conversation in America. What is at the heart of racism in our country? Why is the fear so intense between the black and white communities? Why can't we find the courage to authentically talk about it?
The belief that male "black teens" are inherently more likely to be criminals is ingrained in our society. It has seeped into our institutions in the form of racial profiling, and too often it poisons the judgment of those who are supposed to protect us.
All of last week, I was in Sanford, Florida, pursuing justice for Trayvon Martin. I listened to community concerns about the Sanford Police Department, and stood with Trayvon's parents and 30,000 others in Sanford, a town with only 50,000 residents.
My son Malcolm is six years old. He is a fun loving kid, loves sports, Avatar The Last Airbender and swimming. Everyone thinks he is adorable. But soon, I have to explain to him that he will not always be viewed as a cute little kid. That as he gets older, he will be looked at as a threat.
The idea that strong relationships impact student success shouldn't be anything new to educators. But the implication -- that race, background and gender are not destiny, and that focused interventions produce tangible results -- is enormous.
We don't know why the boys quoted by the Sparrows didn't mention the numbingly dull classes, the frequently absent teachers, the non-functioning science labs and all the other ways schools cheat them out of strong educations.
I challenge everyone, as we move into 2011, to think about ways we can all reach out to these young black males in our immediate communities to build bridges over the cracks and gaping holes that lie in their paths.