Let us breathe: white supremacist education and the experiences of Black males in community college

In spite of various programs implemented in colleges to help Black males transition into higher education, research shows that this population of students is still the most disproportionately impacted in terms of academic progress and success. Solutions often support a cultural deficit model that blames the student. These circumstances translate into disadvantages in the housing market and employment field for Black men and contribute to the school to prison pipeline. To disrupt these patterns, more research is needed on how to cultivate an academic identity that promotes self-efficacy. Some emerging studies do show that mentoring programs for Black males may offer promise for doing so. Therefore, the purpose of this qualitative study, which draws conceptually on Critical Pedagogy and the Community Cultural Wealth Model, is twofold: to investigate the perceptions of Black males in the “Brothers of Excellence Program” (BOEP) at Los Medanos College (LMC) regarding their academic identity and self-efficacy, as well as identify the factors that may contribute to the development of these constructs. The question guiding this study is: How do Black male community college students perceive their academic identity and self-efficacy? Two sub-questions emerging from this overarching query include: a) What factors contribute to those perceptions? and b) In what ways does LMC’s “Brothers of Excellence Program” (BOEP) affect the development of self-efficacy and strong academic identity amongst Black male students at LMC? My findings revealed that Black male students experience so much trauma in white-normed classrooms that it severely impacts their academic identity and causes issues with mental health. Implementing programs like BOEP that value Black male students’ cultural wealth while also providing mentorship and life skills cultivates a sense of community and belonging that promotes academic achievement. My findings also highlight the urgency to unlearn and dismantle oppressive systems built on whiteness that murders the spirit of Black males. To transform the education system, educators must begin confronting the history of racism and white supremacy and work to abolish the oppressive learning environments that traumatize Black and brown students.