Sparring Continues Over Cuny black male initiative
I have never met the young African-American man who writer Christina Asquith claims (see “Dreams Deferred?” Feb. 22) we are trying to put out of a job as a counselor at Medgar Evers College’s Male Development and Empowerment Center. I have, however, met Dr. Edison Jackson, the president of the college, who (prior to our complaint challenging the “Black Male Initiative”) bragged about a class for Black males only, which he himself and other Black males taught. Maybe that was all hype, because once we filed our civil rights complaint suddenly the class was actually “open” to all students without regard to their race and gender, notwithstanding these college officials’ prior statements and exclusionary acronyms and behavior in establishing “MALE,” a program for the separate treatment of Black males. Officials at public and federally supported colleges know that they violate federal civil rights laws whenever they restrict—intentionally or in effect—courses or classes to students on the basis of race and sex, as the officials at the City University of New York have done by using Medgar Evers’ MALE Center as the prototype for “saving” Black male students from “the race’s” history of antisocial behavior. It appears that merely being Black and male at CUNY colleges stigmatizes such youth as criminally prone and “at risk” for underachievement, even at CUNY’s less-than-competitive colleges. Such racial and gender stereotypes are thinly veiled paternalism, and deeply offensive, as well as reflective of nasty segregationist habits and used as a proxy and justification for separating and treating Black male youth differently from all other students.
— Michael Meyers, Executive DirectorNew York Civil Rights CoalitionNew York
I am appalled that Michael Meyers (see “Dreams Deferred,” Feb. 22) and his misguided New York Civil Rights Coalition would seek to dismantle the CUNY Black Male Initiative program when it should be replicated on as many college campuses across the county as possible. The fact that Juan Williams, a journalist, and therefore, on the frontlines as a witness to the assault on the minds, bodies and souls that many Black and other men of color face daily in the United States, would support this attack, is even more of a travesty. How could the findings of the 90-page report by the CUNY task force be ignored?
As a proud graduate of a women’s college, let me remind Meyers, et al, that women’s colleges were started for the same reason — the “Old Boys Network” of White males cannot be simply given the chance to play nice on its own. If a Black male feels that he cannot benefit from an enrichment program designed to make sure he succeeds, then he doesn’t have to attend. Perhaps he can even intern at Meyers’ firm — I just hope he doesn’t need a cab to get home.
— Jacqueline M. Jones Admissions CounselorMassasoit Community CollegeBrockton, Mass.
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