I am troubled by a consistent situation that I witness in many schools: Black males who have tuned out. Obviously, this is a sweeping generalization, but it certainly pertains to the majority of black males within our public school institutions with whom I've observed during my performances. It has been socially "cool" to tune out, to care about little, and to kill or die for even less than little. And what's even more distressing is the isolation felt by black boys who do care, who want to succeed, who [pardon the expression] "give a damn". They are a true minority, made to feel like ciphers, alone, ostracized from the larger black male community, and often criticized for being less black. They will come to speak to me after my performance while some of their peers just mock them for being weak, a punk.
Black is cool. Black is feared. Black is tough. Black is.
I go into many schools where the black males, specifically, and the black children, in general, will treat my show with more outward disrespect than the rest of the school population. This is not always the case, but it certainly happens more often than I feel happy to admit. And does it matter if it is an inner-city school compared to a more suburban school? Sometimes, yes, but in truth, I have found that black males in suburban schools feel as if they have more to "prove" in regards to their blackness, therefore, they will challenge me more overtly during my performance than inner-city blacks. Inner-city black males will tend to fake sleeping or really fall asleep even before I begin my performance. I was once in a suburban school where upon completing one of my characters, a black student shouted out "FAGGOT!" Now, granted, I had never before nor since experienced that same interchange, but I found it to be somewhat unsettling that it came from a black student in a predominantly white environment; I felt that it could only further some negative, cultural stereotypes placed on blacks. I worry that when this type of disruption and disrespect takes place, I am then viewed as the exception, the-"not like THEM"-insult put forth to positive blacks like myself; while the obnoxious black students are internally accepted as the general rule. But how did this all begin, and what are the factors that have perpetuated these insipid displays of shallowness?
Allow me to start with the school as a system; allow me to start with some positive observations. I have noticed that I have had much more favorable responses from black students when they are in a school system that 1.) will treat these students with mutual respect,