Bad Boys by Arnette Ferguson

Paige Kahalnik Sociology Bad Boys paper In the book, Bad Boys, Ann Arnett Ferguson goes on a three-year journey through Rosa Parks Elementary School to observe and research why it is that mostly black males are ending up in jail and are unsalvageable from such a young age. She interviews and observes daily interactions with the eleven and twelve year old students that have been labeled “at risk” by their teachers and peers. She wants to research how it is being in school when all of the educators have already labeled them as “unsalvagable, at risk, and bound for jail”.

These kids pretty much act in the way that their teachers treat them. They get into trouble every single day and most of the times these boys provoke it because that’s how they think there supposed to act because they think they are already going no where in life. At such a young age, these boys, just because they are black, shouldn’t be criminalized and put in a different category than other boys. These children faced many challenges that effected how they learned in school, the way teachers and peers treated them, and how they are labeled as bad boys.

Ann Arnett Ferguson said, “in the course of my study it became clear that school labeling practices and the exercise of rules operated as part of a hidden curriculum to marginalize and isolate black male youth in disciplinary spaces and brand them as criminally inclined”(page 2). This means that the educators didn’t really realize they were doing this and labeling these boys but it was more like a tradition and they saw nothing wrong with it. This is purely based on race and obviously some people are still in the mindset that black people are inferior to white people.

Bad boys show black males from a very young age being adultified and become very masculine making them becomes part of the criminal system early on. Adultification is a filter of overlapping representations of three socially invented categories of “difference”; age, gender and race. This is justified by saying that humans are different from animals, children different from adults, girls different from males, and blacks different from whites. African American boys are doubly displaced among society.

Ann Arnett Ferguson says, “they are not seen as childlike but adultified; as black males they are denied the masculine dispensation constituting white males as being “naturally naughty” and are discerned as willfully bad”(page 80). These African American boys are thought of being two things, either a criminal or an endangered species. They are not allowed to be naughty by nature according to society, but rather there naughtiness is a sign of vicious, inherent, insubordinate behavior.

African americans are seen as endangered victims, which makes them criminals. Ferguson states, “It is their own maladaptive and inappropriate behavior that causes African americans to self-destruct”(page 82). There are two versions of childhood that are contradictory to each other. A real child would be seen as a “little plants” ready to grow up accordingly which is what white men were like to educators. On the other hand the African American boys were seen as children who are powerful, self centered, and have an agenda of their own.

These black boys are seen as adults from such a young age, they don’t have time to be young and grow up because others make it seem like they are already fully grown. This drives them in the path to do bad things and make bad decisions. In the beginning of the book, the vice principal of Rosa Parks Elementary school said that most of the children in the school would be headed for jail and that there was a jail cell with some of their names waiting on it. At first, Ferguson rejected this point of view and said that that was not going to be true.

After further research and observation, Ferguson definitely looked at the situation differently. She said, “While I rejected the labeling practices of the school vice principal , in my opening chapter, I also reluctantly admitted that by the end of school year, I too had come to suspect that a prison cell might have a place in the future of many Rosa Parks students” (page 230). These boys have adopted the way that people treat them and it has such a negative effect on them that they are probably heading to jail.

They are all being punished so much and isolated from the classroom that they aren’t learning anything throughout the days. They don’t have many social interactions and don’t have full access to resources that are needed. Educators might not see it, but they are a big reason that these children and being put behind bars and not meeting expectations that white boys meet. They are treated differently than white boys from such a young age, so they just start to “act black” like how everyone else thinks they should. They know they are getting treated differently, so they just keep it that way.

Most of the people that end up in jail are usually African American boys. If these “bad boys” weren’t treated like they are some kind of poison, maybe they wouldn’t be behind bars as life goes on for them. African American boys have to seem masculine every single day from such a young age because they were labeled as adults so early on. These boys thrive on their masculinity because this means that they have power and value. Their life doesn’t have meaning if they aren’t throwing masculine performances to the best level. This is why so many African Americans get in trouble.

They want to prove their masculinity through violence. When young African American boys are in school they fight to show others who they are. Most of these boys identify themselves in groups like gangs because it is a sense of home for them. They are all being treated differently than others and they come together based on the fact of their race and how others see them. There is never any white boys in these gangs they are all black. Gangs are a sign of family and equality when they’re with there “homies”. They do violent acts in gangs to show their masculinity to others and have others fear them.

The public and the media see them as “ghetto” black boys who aren’t educated and are violent. Since so many people portray them as this, they tend to do these things. They know how people see them and so they act on it how they think they should be acting in correlation to what the media and public see them as. In the classroom the African American boys will talk out of turn, say mean comments to others, and not answer any questions that the teacher asks. They see this as a masculine performance. It is fundamental for these boys to engage with power while in the classroom or they don’t feel like themselves.

They are always seen as inferior to the white boys and girls in class, so they decide to stay that way and not play around with the hidden curriculum. Bad Boys shows that there is still race issues that are going on today. Whether the educators realize that they single out the black boys more than anyone or not, there hidden curriculum is very apparent in this book. Fergusons portrayal of what happens to black boys is very real and happens to tons of them. It is true that mostly African Americans end up in jail and that they are treated like adults from such an early age that they already feel grown up by the time they are eleven or twelve.

These boys are supposed to “act black”, so they do. These boys are supposed to act masculine, so they fight. These boys do everything that the public and media say they should and they don’t know any other way of how to act. This has been going on for so long, that there is no turning back for these boys. This book will show people what is really going on and I think many educators, peers, parents, etc. will see this and really try to change the way they say and do things to African Americans. Maybe this book will turn some people around and these boys will be treated equally.

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