Understanding The Environmental Contexts Of Boys And Young Men Of Color

by Lynette A. Rawlings

Feb 14, 2015

This essay provides a framework for understanding how various settings influence lives of boys and young men of color. Failure to take these environments into account treats the problems experienced by this group as entirely of their own making and ignores the role that external forces play in contributing to poor outcomes. This essay provides a context for future research and analysis, in hopes that it will examine the lives and circumstances of boys and young men of color using more complex and nuanced perspectives.
  • The most prominent environments affecting boys and young men of color are society and culture, systems and institutions, community and neighborhood, and family.
  • In society and culture, testing boundaries and challenging authority is the norm for children and adolescents. However, boys and men of color are not allowed this privilege of having their missteps considered in a forgiving light.
  • In systems and institutions, boys and men of color face barriers in and are profoundly affected by education, employment and economic opportunity, social services, and justice.
  • Boys and young men of color disproportionately grow up in communities with some of the highest rates of poverty and distress in the U.S which were created through discriminatory lending, housing, and urban redevelopment policies. Unequal neighborhoods, barriers to housing access, and subsequent disparities in community health have become part of the invisible institutional system.
  • Forty percent of boys and young men of color grow up with absent fathers. Strong families can buffer children from a multitude of societal harms, while weak family and parental supports can create their own damage and magnify harms from other environmental contexts.