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The Pocket Knife: Black Boys and Masculinity

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As a mentor, I have the unique opportunity to use my talents to inspire a young man. Of course, the position is only a year long, but already, through just talking with this young man, I see the dangers of growing up young, gifted, and black in a neighborhood where some people have lost their ability to imagine a way outside of a perverse norm. This sort of provincial thinking pervades all neighborhoods, but the repercussions are disastrous and more magnified amongst urban youth.

The emancipation from mental slavery has yet to occur in the ghettos across America. One might argue that young kids, regardless of race, are discouraged from creative, critical thinking, and aspirations towards academic excellence.

However, the lack of enthusiasm many urban youth showcase for academics probably stems from the limiting stereotypes about their intellect, or lack thereof in relation to other-raced people.

People still say things like, "Stop acting white." As if, all white people possessed Einstein's brain.

Talent is fundamentally undermined in poorer neighborhoods because these children lack access to the uplifting outlets and positive representations that many privileged members of American society take for granted.

Someone once wrote, in order to judge another person, you must first walk a mile in their shoes. Considering I'm a U.S. size 11, I have no intention of wearing the itty-bitty shoes of this nine-year-old.

This child needs others to tell him that he doesn't have to resort to violence. He doesn't have to use a weapon to protect himself. Knowledge is the most powerful weapon against discrimination.

Through channeling misdirected rage, black and Latino youth can achieve incredible heights in this country. And pursue a plethora of avenues outside of violence and aggression. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

This kid needs some direction and a healthy support system. Since the age of ten, I knew I was going to college.

Despite being bullied and told that I was this, that, and the third, in the back of my mind, I knew I was going somewhere.

This kid can leave the 'hood too, if not physically, he can certainly do so mentally.

Imagination is key. Reading expands our imagination.

Yes, this kid must also stave off vicious tormentors.

People are so quick to judge in our society. We live in a binary, reductionist, black/white, good/bad, knee-jerk culture.

Some mistakenly predict the worst for well-meaning kids who bring "weapons" to school as a means of self-defense.

So, he brought a pocket knife. The kid's not dangerous. He's just a kid and he's afraid of those bullies at school.

Next, is the penitentiary, right?

People are wrong about the youth today.

I bet his teachers have falsely portrayed this young man as some sort of monster.

The elders most likely think he's unstable mentally.

People aren't crazy, people are very strong...maybe their environment's a little sick?

There are very few mistakes that a person can't overcome in life.

People often possess unwarranted, pessimistic beliefs about younger generations.

Those outside of dominant groups are marginalized by their peers and instructors alike and made to believe that they can't achieve at the same level as others because of lowered expectations.

There's still hope.

In life, you never know what you're going to get.

The kid brought the knife, but he didn't use it. Perhaps it was the only way he thought he could ward off his tormentors.

Who knows? The young man might eventually produce beautiful poetry, construct the next artistic masterpiece, lead the entire nation, or become a billionaire entrepreneur.

You never know, unless you try.

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