Steve Urkel messed everything up for men like me.
The famous character from the sitcom "Family Matters" appeared to be a positive example of a young black male, but instead represented a caricature that makes inner-city kids think twice about hitting the books. And with school starting for most kids next week, there is a need for a dialogue about why there aren't enough studious black males.
When I was in high school in the late 90s/early 2000s, the last thing anybody wanted to be was a nerd. To my chagrin, I ended up being that person nobody wanted to be. One moment, folks were using me to get last minute answers for their homework. The next, I was being teased and even got hit in the head with an orange from the football team. (Too bad none of their throw attempts connected when it counted.)
However, this is not a psychiatry session. I'm not looking for anyone's pity about my past. But I understand why kids want to be so cool, so badly. When you think of how Steve Urkel was never given the time of day by his counterpart, Laura Winslow -- until he morphed into his "cool" alter ego Stefan Urquelle -- you can see why some black boys in the inner city don't want to be smart.
Take these recent statistics from the Schott Foundation , for example:
Only 47% of black males finished high school for the 2007/08 school year. (My younger brother happened to be one of the lucky few in that class.)
Out of that number, only 28% of black males in New York City finish on time.
These numbers make me scratch my head. If this country can put a black man in the White House, why can't we put more black men in college? Maybe it's because we can't see them through high school. We pass the buck off to the parents, forgetting that some of those kids come from broken homes.
So, what's the answer? More male mentors? It's not that many black male college graduates to begin with. On top of that, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has launched a campaign to get more black men teaching. But there aren't enough "brothas" to go around, given the low rates of professional achievement. This could mean that we need mentors of all ethnic backgrounds to provide guidance to our troubled young men.
Instead of talking about the problem, I want to be part of the solution. I pledge to be that black nerd who shows young men that there's a world outside of music and sports.
Charles Barkley joked on Saturday Night Live that "there's nothing sadder than a black nerd."
Bump that! There's nothing COOLER than a black nerd and if you want proof of that...
Just look in the Oval Office. :)