If your education was honestly whitewashed, watch Black Boys. If your kid isn’t playing attention in their virtual history class, play Black Boys. The new film streaming on NBC Universal’s Peacock TV boldly confronts the issues that you’ve always asked in your head, but were too afraid to hear the answers to. Things like why does watching pro sports feel like it has overtones of slavery? Also, why can asking for equality be found offensive?
Throughout this movie, it’s hard to deal with the fact that the oppressed must also be the leaders of change. You’ll smile watching some of the personal moments experienced by young black boys and men. Just as easily, you’ll find yourself heartbroken seeing just how oppression bleeds through every facet of life for African American males in the United States. It’s hard to forget a message on the shirt that one of the interviewed men, Malcolm, wore: “Everything is political when you’re black.” You’ll enjoy hearing the jokes and aspirations of a few documented black boys, and also learn of the dilemmas plaguing them in sports, education, and criminal justice.
To black youth, the pro athlete is one of the few places they can count on finding a positive image. Almost as a case study, Black Boys profiles the life of former NFL defensive-end Greg Scruggs. “They used to tell me, the NCAA is a meat market. Man they are looking for you, cause you are a gorgeous piece of meat,” said Scruggs. As one interviewee put it, “the black boy is a multi-billion dollar enterprise.” Scruggs comes from a system where black people are always the brawn but never the brain. His body was studied and pushed to its limits. Even with all his fame and fortune, neither he nor any other black man stands today as an NFL team owner. He too idolized sports as a way to rise out of poverty. He lost his father before high school, and his younger brother to gun violence. As many black boys like him vie for what is statistically almost a one-in-a-million job opening, parents and community members are there egging them on. However, if these hopeful black boys happen to get injured or are one of thousands who don’t get drafted, few are prepared with an education to back them up.
Meanwhile on the education front, black boys are vulnerable even as students. When it comes to funding, school districts with predominantly black students receive on average $1,800 less per student. Black boys run a higher risk of subliminally or directly being “put in their place.” These boys often face less compassion, savior complexes, and even bold racism from their educators. In the film, students shared experiences such as teachers insinuating that they should aim for less significant achievements, considering their background. Teachers who lack compassion towards these boys are also more likely to be impatient with them. This can mean escalated situations that result in suspensions and encounters with school police.
As educator Sharif El-Mekki put it, “So many black boys are approached with just this firmness that’s unnecessary…” It’s hard to imagine how easily these experiences could manifest into lifestyles of self-hate and self-sabotage for such young boys.
Black Boys really does go above and beyond showing a day in the life of a black boy. It gives a birds-eye-view to their lives, and the systems they are boxed into but still leap out of. Their lives are more than poverty and strife. If there’s one resonating sound byte to take away from this film, it’s the beautiful sound of a black boy’s laugh.
Watch Black Boys today, streaming free on Peacock TV.