American Promise: Race and Education

American Promise , the documentary/film which focuses in on the journey of two Black males from middle class families attending private schools, was released in 2014. It highlights their struggles and successes. I feel that the film is informative yet challenging. It challenges us to see the importance of removing the stereotypes of Black males.  The young boys portrayed in a stereotypical role within the documentary American Promise opens our eyes to how difficult is it for Black males to escape stereotypes even when they’re removed from targeted environments . A stereotypical role in which little black boys are helpless and hopeless. Little black boys who portrayed in roles in which they need “to be saved” because their daddies aren’t around to raise them. This caused me to reflect on Dr. Kings thoughts on poverty, violence, racism and the Vietnam war. Social dynamics that systematically involved Black males as the problem and still provides no solutions. This is same problem we see with race, education and the American Promise. A reflection of problems Black males face in America with no viable solutions.

The documentary reminds me of the profound phrase, “We Shall Overcome!” I see young Black boys in American Promise portraying how we’re still overcoming. I felt that the characters shed light on serious issues within our society but the documentary provided no solutions. It is possible that the American Promise did not set up to provide solutions but to provide awareness. Awareness is knowing that we must continue to fight for equity and equality in education. Black children should not have to be bused all over the city to get a quality education. The schools within our backyards should be schools of excellence. The stereotypical and demeaning undertone that American citizens who live in what’s identified as lower or middle class communities still exists in education. This type of ideology creates a racially divided society that says to some American citizens, “You have a very slim chance of finding success!”

There are parts in the documentary that highlight the need for more engagement of Black men in rearing Black children. Another role that wasn’t highlighted as a solution to empower black students is the urgent need for more Black male educators. The documentary while informative addressed issues and left them framed as stereotypes. One point of data reflected in American Promise is that more single parent homes are led by Black women. The film reinforces that Black children raised by Black women are academically successful throughout grade school and college because they were removed from their environment. We cannot however ignore the fact that there are many other Black children who fall victim to the school to prison pipeline. American Promise highlights the following areas as to reasons why Black children experience challenges in school.

  • Absence of parents or lack of parental engagement
  • Lack of diversity in school faculty and staff 
  • Improving Early Childhood Education

What can schools do to address these areas?

Solution #1: Increasing the engagement of stakeholders! Schools are building the work of family engagement which involved the family and community in helping continue education at home. This also impacts parenting skills and improved ways to rear Black children.

Solution #2: Being intentional about recruiting and retaining a diverse staff (gender, race, culture, talents). Schools should hire someone who speak Spanish/other languages because there are ELL students or Black teachers because there are Black students. We should have a diverse staff that represents a wide range of talents and cultures.

Solution #3: Building improved partnerships between schools, early learning centers and parents. I believe if schools were more proactive with partnering with early learning centers, more families would be prepared for grade school.


Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.

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