Dear Dr. Buckingham,
I am extremely troubled as a parent and elementary school teacher. Over the years, I have taught both black and white boys, and I have observed two distinct mindsets, views and dream patterns.
The black boys in my class appear to be focused more on survival, and the whites appear to be focused more on thriving. I say this because we have several activities, in which we try to gain an insight into their dreams and views.
We ask them to list their dreams and discuss how they can achieve them. On many occasions, I have noticed that the black boys’ dreams are different than the white boys’ dreams.
Why do white and black males have different dreams? Excuse me for being naive, but as a white parent and committed teacher, I would like to gain a better understanding of this phenomenon. I want to give my best to all my students, but I need to know how to better connect with the black boys in my class.
A Committed White Parent and Teacher
Dear Committed White Parent and Teacher,
I commend you for seeking understanding. With racial tensions being at a new high, we all should be seeking understanding.
But let me first address your comment about their dreams. A dream is a state of mind characterized by abstract thinking and release from reality. Dreaming provides a mean for coping with and/or escaping our realities.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most prominent dreamers in modern history. His dream was rooted in the American dream, and on August 28, 1963, Dr. King shared his dream with the world. He dreamed that, “One day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal.’”
As reflected in Dr. King’s speech, dreams represent the things that we long for and desire in life. Simply stated, dreams are fantastic, but they can also be vain hopes or cherished desires. We dream to fulfill a void in our lives. Dr. King dreamed about equality and justice for himself and others because these basic civil rights were not part of the lived experience of blacks during his lifetime.
Although 51 years have passed since Dr. King shared his dream, some things have changed and some things have not. The struggle for blacks in America continues, and Dr. King’s dream is just as significant today as it was in 1963.
White and Black males have different dreams because we live in an unjust and racist society that reminds us that we are different. Fro example, while the average white American may dream about a world free of terrorism, an African American may dream about a world free of racism and terrorism.
White and black males are not different from a Godly perspective, but our dreams and lifestyles are manifestations of our circumstances. The right to prosper, to be treated civilly, to be protected and to feel safe should be extended to all human beings, regardless of their appearance, race, background or economic, social or financial status.
Like Dr. King, I too would love to have dreams that are manifestations of the words outlined in the United States Declaration of Independence—in particularly, the words outline in the second sentence of the Declaration:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The above-mentioned passage represents a moral standard to which the United States should strive. We honor Dr. King because he fought to enforce this basic moral standard. We also honor and celebrate Dr. King because he helped all Americans understand that dreams influence behavior.
But most importantly, we honor and celebrate Dr. King because he helped us understand why black and white males dream about different things. If society desires to change the things that black and white males dream about, we must change the circumstances that influence their dreams.
Remember that dreams are reminders of the things that we do not have, but desire. I challenge you to challenge the black boys in your class to dream differently. But importantly, I challenge you to work to change the conditions that influence how and what black boys dream about. Thank you for seeking understanding. This is the first step toward coping with and reducing racial injustices.
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Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.