15. Memorandum submitted by
Mr Melvyn Davis, Founder and Director of the Boys2MEN Project
1. Within this written submission I have
chosen to focus on my personal experience of working with disaffected
and socially excluded black young people over the last 20 years.
In particular I will be focusing on the experiences of black boys.
2. The reasons for the overrepresentation
of Black youth within the criminal justice system are numerous
and complex. Black youth face discrimination at every level within
the criminal justice system from pre-arrest through to sentencing.
The statistics, which are well known and readily available, show
that, from the point of stop and search, pre-sentencing reports,
through to the duration and severity of sentencing, black youth
3. What message does this send to our black
youth? How can we who work to raise their self-esteem and promote
a sense of hope and values, answer their feelings of racism and
injustice which I believe is inextricably linked to attitudes
of disaffection which provides a rational for criminal behavior
within a society that sees them as deviant, dangerous delinquents,
"different" and unequal.
4. What processes and conditioning do they
go through within British society in order to commit crimes without
regard to the consequences or guilt? How can a boy feel justified
in committing such a violent crime as murder? The answers to these
questions are I believe the key areas that require political consideration
and intervention. We must do more to tackle and dismantle once
and for all the consequences of institutional racism and discrimination.
5. I would like to make five clear suggestions
as to how we might be able to move things forward. I believe that
unless specific, targeted and sustained effort is made to: (1)
reverse the negative impact that black boys have of themselves;
(2) drastically reduce the exclusion of black boys and improve
their educational outcomes; (3) provide long-term financial support
to black organisations that are able to provide tried and tested
interventions; (4) provide professional mentors to work with the
most at risk within those communities and (5) ensure that existing
funding and statutory agencies are charged with ensuring that
they are able to engage with the black community, and in particular
6. The reality for many black youths, particularly
black males, is that the journey from social inclusion to exclusion
starts long before they enter the criminal justice system.
7. The statistics on black boys underachievement
within education tell a very compelling story with overwhelming
consequences. Black boys are less likely to receive GCSE qualifications
and are more likely to be excluded from school. Even though there
has been a drop in some boroughs of formal exclusions, the picture
on the ground is that informal or unofficial exclusions are on
the increase. Unofficial exclusions which do not show up on fixed
or permanent exclusion rates include: parents being called into
school to collect their children; sitting outside of the head
teachers office; being "encouraged" to find another
school; and being placed in an in-school learning support unit.
8. The failure within the educational system
to produce significant numbers of black boys who have a standard
of education that leads to viable routes into employment is a
scandal. The failure of the education system to educate our black
boys provides a breeding ground for disaffection that undoubtedly
leads many (not all) to seek alternative means of obtaining a
good standard of living or gaining respect from their peers.
9. In a vain attempt to take ownership of
a process that is largely outside of their control, the black
community within the UK has begun to define itself and its culture,
in response to the discrimination they face. The consequences
of social and racial exclusion are being reclassified as cultural
norms. Certain sections of the UK's Black community are accepting
as norms behaviours that are criminal, deviant and socially excluding.
From the way they dress, walk, behave and the music they create
(protesting behaviour) black youth are expressing an unarticulated
anger that is in direct response to the way they are perceived,
the social barriers and deprivation faced.
10. The impact on many of the black boys
I work with is that they "feel" discriminated against.
They "feel" that teachers are treating them differently
and they "feel" that others get preferential treatment,
they "feel" targeted by the police, because they are
black. These powerful messages (real or perceived) impact on them
emotionally and have the detrimental effect of eroding motivation
and lowering aspirations. The further along the educational scale
you go from KS1 to KS4, the worse the picture becomes.
11. A 9-year-old black boy once called me
a liar when I told him that I had never been excluded from school.
In some areas and sections of our community this has become the
norm. Our black boys believe the statistics about them, and as
consequence are living up to our low expectations. I see KS1 and
KS2 black boys creating a negative pathology of black behaviour
and identity based on media images and statutory agencies perceptions.
12. Those black boys who are able to achieve
despite the barriers that they have had to face often do so because
of one or more of these key resilient factors being in place:
(a) A positive male or father figure in their
(b) A significant individual that provides
unconditional positive regard.
(c) A strong cultural identity linked to
moral and or religious values.
(d) A good standard of education.
(e) A sense of equity and citizenship.
13. (This is by no means an exhaustive list
but one that highlights what I consider to be the factors most
pertinent to the black community.)
14. Black youth are turning to crime because:
15. Certain types of crime are glamorised
by rap and grime music and black artists portray crime as a legitimate
means of making money. Videos that show black artists being pimps,
drug dealers, robbing banks, and committing acts of violence do
have an effect on black youth who lack protective factors that
can produce a reasonable level of resilience. What other culture
portrays themselves within their music in such a manner? Where
are the alternative counter messages of black achievement or pathways
to success within the UKin significant numbersto
challenge the perceptions that black people can really succeed
within British society?
16. The barriers to social inclusion are
inextricably linked to the question of British identity and belonging.
Even though born here, too many black youth do not feel a part
of British society. They are identified within the media by their
ethnic origin; politicians talk of "tolerating" migrants
coming to their country; they are asked to adopt a hyphenated
identity (Black-British); despite the abolition of slavery, they
still face discrimination at virtually all levels of society.
Many of the actions (reactions) of government are making the situation
17. There are fewer safeguards within the
black family that can act as resilient factors against the allure
of crime. Absent or uninvolved fathers, teenage mothers with no
support or poor parenting skills, no religious or moral guidance,
poor role models and growing up on sink estates surrounded by
all the indicators of poverty and deprivation. At the heart of
itthe black factora lack of a black cultural identity
that provides a sense of self-esteem or self-worth that incubates
them emotionally from racism and discrimination.
18. Certain types of crime within areas
which are populated by black communities such as drug dealing
and the desire/need to validate themselves through material possessions
provide both a saleable commodity and a complicit community within
which buyers, become runners and dealers. Black youth are exposed
to peers and family members who "hustle" for a living
and receive mixed messages about law and order. The line between
law and order is easily blurred and because offenders are revered
and feared within those sections of the black community, the man
that gains respect (and is glamorised) is the man on the corner
who has, rather than the man who is studying to go to university
(leaving with £15K worth of debt) and with the real prospect
of earning less than the man on the corner.
19. The absence of an involved father or
positive male role model further compounds these powerful influences
that so easily seduce so many black males into crime. The absent
father/male in the formative years of a child's life can often
lead to an accelerated childhood. The boy in particular, quickly
becomes or perceives himself as the man of the house. He is more
inclined to adopt machismo behaviours in order to cope with the
harsh and competitive environment he has to exist within, and
to protect himself emotionally from the father that is absent
and a society that is discriminating towards him on a daily basis.
20. I cannot overestimate how all encompassing
this process can become. It takes place on a subconscious level
and is daily reinforced. This black machismo male identity not
only seeks to protect the individual from painful messages of
rejection that he receives from his absent father, school, the
media, the music he listens to, people's reactions to him from
entering stores to getting on and off a bus; it also seeks to
counter in a passive aggressive way, the negative perception of
self held by the indigenous population, whilst at the same time
creating the emotional detachment needed to commit crime.
21. How important is self validation and
self efficacy to black males? I would argue extremely important.
Look at the lengths they go to in order to look good. The amount
spent on clothes, jewellery and cars. This tells a powerful story
of unmet need not greed. Where in society outside of sports and
music are black people validated and acclaimed? Where are black
men regarded as equals and allowed in on mass, based on ability
rather than the policies of inclusion designed to allow in just
a few "appropriate" black individuals.
22. Although British society has come a
long way in regards to social inclusion, it still has much further
to go and this is evidenced by the nationalistic debates around
immigration, the racially biased reporting of crimes and the existence
and continued rise of the BNP and other far right parties. Black
youth are aware of these tensions and despite our reassurances,
they know what they "feel" and experience on a daily
basis. They see and experience the disparity between what we say
and do and therefore they become easily alienated, even seeing
themselves as "soldiers" fighting against society and
each other. They wear hoodies not to make a fashion statement
but because there are cameras above their heads. They are reacting
to a society that they have no stake within.
23. The saddest and most damaging aspect
of the negative perceptions of black youth and how this impacts
upon their behaviour is the self deprecation that takes place
which manifests itself in the form of Black on Black crime; the
content of rap videos; the disparaging language used towards each
other and the disregard for the impact of drug and gun culture
on their own communities. How they talk about each other, the
violence, aggression and the objectification of women all form
part of the loss of identity, values and systematic destruction
of the family unit during slavery, the affects of which are still
being experienced today. I would go as far as to describe it as
a form of self harm and self loathing that manifests itself internally
and externally. I believe Black males are more susceptible to
the internalisation of racism and as a result fall more easily
into the net of crime because they have more social barriers to
overcome. They are now not only feared by white society but they
are also becoming increasingly alienated from each other, which
is why mentoring of black males, by black male mentors, is so
24. There is a considerable emotional disconnect
that black males are experiencing in order to survive within their
communities. They are increasingly becoming disconnected, from
their parents, their children, their communities, their values
and their subjugated place within society. The disproportionate
numbers of black males within the mental health system also leads
me to conclude that they are also becoming disconnected from themselves.
The numbers are significant enough for politicians to make this
25. Patterns of negative behaviour are already
generational and create social ghettos in which black youths are
being born into families within notorious neighbourhoods run by
gangs and individuals who are seen to operate above the law. Recently
a member of my staff attended a funeral in support of a young
man we were working with. It was his father's funeral. His father
had died whilst in prison. In attendance was his unclechained
to his prison guard and his grand-dadchained to his prison
guard. The young man was on our youth offending programme.
26. We need more specialist black mentoring
schemes, with male mentors trained to challenge their views of
black men, black culture and their personal identities. We need
to dismantle the "conveyer belt" within our communities
that deprives so many black boys of an education and produces
so many disaffected black males who are unable to realise their
potential outside of crime.
27. We need more funding and resources within
crime "hotspot" areas and targeted support to the siblings
of offenders. We know there are strong links between offending,
siblings and re-offending rates. Greater effort and resolve is
needed to prevent black communities becoming ghettos as a consequence
of this powerful social dynamic. Resources are needed in the form
of specialist teams going into areas of concern to provide support
to schools, families and the young people. This is a socio-psychological
war against disaffection that must be fought on all fronts, simultaneously.
28. Produce targets and closer monitoring
in schools to stop the formal and informal exclusions of black
boys alongside more resources and incentives to schools to raise
the attainment of black pupils and work with experienced and successful
outside agencies in order to do so.
29. Positive media and political campaigns
that stop demonising young people and youth culture which only
serves to alienate them further. Political leaders need to be
seen to care and stand up for the needs of black communities.
Their silence and inaction on issues of race and discrimination
is heard and felt and further serves to alienate.
30. We need workers and agencies that are
better trained and equipped to work with black boys and who actually
understand what is "really going on" and have a clear
rational of how they are going to change it. There are too many
"hit and miss" programmes that fail to deliver what
31. We need to stop funding music projects
and channel funding towards projects that provide access to learning
and employment and challenge the negative images and stereotypes
of black males.
32. We need peer-mentoring programmes which
offer young offenders a real way out. Programmes in which those
who were previously offenders are trained and supported to reach
those resistant and persistent offenders, providing them with
real avenues of support that would enable them to do all that
is necessary to start a new life. This work in the first instance
should be voluntary leading to paid employment for those who show
willing and aptitude.
33. We need more support to teenage mothersnot
from well-intended parenting programmes that do not take account
the environment or life experiences, cultures and discrimination
faced by their participants. A naughty step or time out will be
of a little use to a child who carries a knife to school or whose
father fails to turn up to see him at weekends.
34. And finally we need more men working
within early year settings who can work with boys to develop them
emotionally. Emerging research clearly shows that the absence
of males has an impact on boys educational levels and future offending
behaviour. Boys need to be able to form masculine identities via
social interaction with males who are in touch with their full
range of emotions, rather than media images from MTV or Hollywood.
35. Our failures in addressing the psychological
affects of discrimination and in providing a reasonable level
of education are two of the primary factors that impact on black
male criminality. The perception and experience of Black males
needs to be better understood. How they see themselves and their
position within society needs to be challenged and changed and
the significant numbers that fail to get a reasonable standard
of education or end up excluded, needs to be arrested. If every
child matters, then all children irrespective of race must be
given an education that provides them with opportunities to realise
their full potential. Sadly this is not yet the case.