The 12th annual City University of New York Black Male Initiative conference at MEC on Oct. 6 got off to a rousing start in a packed Founders Auditorium. Greetings came from CUNY chancellor James B. Milliken, MEC President Rudolph F. Crew delivered an eloquent call to action, and Dr. Bryant Marks, professor of Psychology and Director of the Morehouse College Male Initiative, delivered a fascinating lecture on implicit bias.
The theme of the 2017 conference was â€œThe Black & Latino Male Image: Rewriting the Narrative.â€ The all-day conference at MEC, a senior college of the City University of New York, featured a series of dynamic and inspiring workshops and discussions. Over 1,000 students, administrators, faculty and community members from around the country were in attendance.
Conference topics were wide-ranging:Â mentoring relationships; gun violence; shaping laws and policies; creating wealth.
Dr. Milliken spoke of CUNYâ€™s desire to enhance college readiness to reduce the need for remediation and to decrease the time it takes to get a degree. Too often, opportunity is correlated with wealth and CUNYâ€™s role is to be that â€œdifference maker,â€ he said.
The country is in the midst of â€œan all-out assault on the very thing that gave rise to this college,â€ charged Dr. Crew. The purpose of this conversation has to be about the continuing struggle of black and Latino males, people of color, and people who are poor, he said.
For the young black and Latino men in the audience, the struggle is also for the larger society to perceive them accurately, respect them, and employ them, Dr. Crew said. The young men also need to respect themselves, he said.Â And given their numbers in the population, the percentage of black and Latino men enrolled in college is still too low when compared to white and Asian men, he added.
â€œDonâ€™t just see us on a basketball court,â€ Dr. Crew said of the narrative around black and Latino men. â€œDonâ€™t just see us in jail.â€
In his lecture, Dr. Marks noted that negative racial perspectives of minority groups are shared by everyone, including black and Latinos. Â Research shows just how impactful unconscious attitudes can be: implicit bias is an even stronger predictor of day to day behavior than explicit bias, he said. Implicit bias is â€œa reflection of exposure,â€ Dr. Marks explained, and is influenced by the makeup of our families and our social circles.
In one experiment, he flashed several images on a screen that turned out to be far more complex than a fleeting glance would suggest.Â An image of an old man and old woman facing each other, for example, turned out to contain depictions of other people.
The CUNY Black Male Initiative is a University-wide student development initiative with more than 30 projects focused on increasing matriculation, retention and graduation rates of underrepresented students, particularly men of color. Â CUNY BMI projects are open to all academically eligible students, faculty and staff, without regard for race, gender or national origin.