Who was the first person in your life to introduce you to the concept of failure? Now, who was the first person in your life to teach you that failure was not only possible, but probable?
If you consider yourself successful by any measure of the Western standard, then you were probably never introduced to the Negro narrative of obfuscation, which teaches the inevitability that outward circumstances will methodically undermine any constructive steps you take in the direction of upward mobility.
All varieties of Negro head honchos, from shepherds of churchgoing hallelujah flock, to old timey civil rights activists, preach the defeatist mantra of how "the man" is out to get them and the variety of ways that our system keeps a "brotha" down.
Unfortunately, it now appears that this chorus of pessimism has entrenched itself in the minds of African American young men, teachers, and even parents.
According to a recent study by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, less than 50% of black males graduated from high school during the 2007-2008 school year. Even worse, according to the report, "(M)ore than twice as many black students are classified as 'mentally retarded' in spite of research demonstrating that the percentages of students from all groups are approximately the same at each intelligence level."
It is clear from the data that young black men are throwing in the towel at record numbers. These numbers should be anything but surprising considering how the black community has systematically lowered expectations for black men on every conceivable level.
In education, we feed young black men bleak statistics which forewarn that he will be killed or imprisoned before age 25, making the pursuit of education futile. In love, black women welcome the most pitiful representations of manhood into their hearts (and bedrooms) with open arms. And in our families, it is now widely accepted for black single moms to raise their kids alone and leave the court system to do battle on their behalf for child support - but what of male parental support?
Even the language we use to refer to our beloved black boys bespeaks his littleness and certain demise. The term 'young black male' is cold and devoid of any true emotion.
If we choose to push for a transformation of thought which undoes the damage of the over-empathizers, apologists, and recklessness in our community, then we must teach young black boys that life has meaning under all conditions. To suffer is a small thing, but to suffer without meaning is despair, and that should be avoided at all costs.
We must also implant in them the truest of all human truths; that they alone are responsible for their choices, and that although hustling has been painted as the clear choice for all warrior hearts, it is not. It is, in truth, a coward's exit. His flee from the battlefield.
Famed psychiatrist Viktor Frankl once mused that "If we take man as he is, we make him worse, but if we overestimate, we promote him to what he really can be." What our education system, homes, and churches are missing are idealists. Believe him grand, and he will be that. Believe him held captive by statistics and circumstances, and he will be just that.
You see, we save young black boys not by sharing their opinion of their own lives, but by nourishing a grander dream for them than the one they currently dream for themselves.
Our freedom, their freedom, lies in perception. You can either allow them to believe that their current conditions are building them up, or tearing you down. But in order to succeed, young black men must be taught that their lives are not subject to the whims of societal laws alone. They must be lived to have meaning.
It's time that educators and advocates alike tone down the rhetoric with regard to the circumstances young African-American men face, and turn the conversation in the direction of what they already have - inside. If we lose this generation of young black men, it won't be because of society, or our crumbling education system, but because we stopped believing.
Yvette Carnell is a political analyst for the African-American business and politics news site, atlantapost.com.