CSUN alumnus and San Diego State University education professor Dr. Frank Harris discussed the implications of what it means to be a man of color in relation to undergraduate college males Thursday.
The first annual men of color enquiry and student research poster session, established as a field exercise for the Pan-African Studies course The Black Man in Contemporary Times, allowed students and faculty to listen to Harris and interact with the student-made posters.
Junior psychology major Brittany Williams, 20, said her group chose to focus on the issue of young African American men and the legal system.
“We noticed that they have the highest incarceration rate, but they’re going to jail and have no knowledge of the law,” Williams said.
Harris, who graduated from CSUN in 1999 with a master’s degree in speech communication, focused on the internal issues men face while trying to live up to the societal construction of manliness. He discussed the tragic deaths of three men: Tyler Clementi, Ryan Halligan and Robert Champion.
“These men internalize the myth that being gay made them not only less of a man, but less of a person,” Harris said.
Both Clementi and Halligan were being bullied because of their sexual orientation and reached out to family members and school administrators with nothing done to stop it. The teenaged boys ended up committing suicide.
“The act of reaching out and asking for help is contradictory to what it means to be male in America,” Harris said.
Champion was beaten to death during a high school band hazing ritual. He walked from the front to the back of a school bus while being punched and kicked repeatedly. The sexual preference of Champion was also a factor in his death.
Harris also said that male undergraduates are four times as likely to commit suicide as well as experiment with hard drugs, smoke cigarettes, commit violent acts and binge drink.
He said that undergraduate males feel pressured to behave this way because of social pressures that may affect their masculinity. These young men are fearful of what others will think of them if they don’t behave in a way that society has deemed acceptable in terms of manliness.
“We justify this through the ‘boys will be boys’ reasoning. We must challenge that reasoning,” Harris said.