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Men of Color in Higher Education: New Foundations for Developing Models for Success (Review 2)

Reviewed by LaToya Eaves, Florida International University

Men of Color in Higher Education: New Foundations for Developing Models for Success is the outcome of a collaborative effort of educators involved in a series of conversations at the College Board in 2008. Under broad concerns of the insufficiencies of educational support for African American men in higher education, the text originated as a way to demonstrate the needs of men of color in college.

This volume contains five essays that highlight how the college experience of men of color is impacted by their racial identity. The chapters focus on men in four racial/ethnic groups that align with the most visible minority groups in the United States: African American/Black; Asian American and Pacific Islander; Native American; and Latino.

The first chapter, “The Problem of Patriarchy,” centralizes the concept of patriarchy as as a framework to examine racism and economic inequality. Edmund T. Gordon and Celeste Henery highlight why analyses of patriarchy must be concerned with its impact on men and the ways that patriarchy controls their lives. In particular, this includes masculinity, gender roles, respectability, and the narrative of crisis. “Intersectionality,” Robert T. Teranishi and Loni Bordoloi Pazich compose the volume’s second chapter in which they explore Asian American and Pacific Islander’s (AAPI) stratification into a singular racialized entity. Using the Black feminist framework of intersectionality, the authors assert the heterogeneity of AAPI groups, revealing the complexities in proposing strategies for institutional equity.

The third chapter “Ahistoricism in the Native American Experience,” written by LeManuel Lee Bitsól and Lloyd L. Lee, attend to the invisibility of Native American history and education in the United States. Perpetuated in settler colonialism, the modern history of Native Americans has been severely altered by European colonialism.. Chapter four is entitled “Masculinity: Through a Male Latino Lens,” written by Victor B. Sáenz and Beth E. Bukoski. Following an extensive account of feminist theoretical frameworks, including Chicana feminism, Sáenz and Bukoski highlight the importance of analyses focused on the gender gap in Latin@ populations. They also explore the educational and community-based impact of patriarchy and masculinity that influence Latino male success in educational institutions. The fifth and final chapter is entitled “(Re)setting the Agenda for College Men of Color: Lessons Learned from a 15-Year Movement to Improve Black Male Success.” The chapter, written by Shaun Harper, explores scholarly work produced over fifteen years that has centered on Black male students. Harper questions why the greater attention on Black men has not yielded higher student success in their educational experiences. He argues that new initiatives for men of color must be strategic and not implemented at the expense of women of color.

Though Harper’s essay does mention the four minority groups, it would have been useful to include a broader, concluding essay that addresses action steps and frameworks for educators to who will use this book as a guide for practice. On many campuses, racial and ethnic minorities are included in the broad demarcation of “students of color” or “multicultural students”, separate from the larger campus population. Therefore, it might have been useful include a few notes for practitioners who work with the broader “students of color” population. However, at the core of intersectionality, race and ethnicity operate as intersecting oppressions and where race/ethnicity and gender meet, there are specific conditions that must be analyzed. Such is the case in this text, where there is a separation of identities into embodiments with unique circumstances. Each chapter provides its own set of recommendations for best practices in higher education. For example in Chapter 3, Bitsól and Lee suggest that administrators “enter into dialogue with members of the Native American communities that send their children to the school so both know exactly what each can do for the students” (p. 77). The specificity of this cultural remedy exemplifies why the structure of the text was necessary.

The volume is advantageous as a point of initiation into understanding the multifariousness of gendered and racialized experiences within the higher education setting. Scholars and practitioners interested in developing and undertaking programs and practices have to be more intentional in their work. Indeed, Williams introduced “new foundations” in the subtitle, providing an underlying directive that it is imperative that programs are sufficiently supportive of and attentive to the specific needs of men of color. This is particularly important as they attempt to navigate a system that is often isolating, at times psychosocially violent and rife with expectations, and a persistent university structure -designed for (and largely still beneficial to) white, middle-class heterosexual, cis-gendered men. One of the messages shared across the five essays in the volume is that educators should be looking beyond the “buzzwords” in higher education – “diversity”, “quotas”, “access”, and “equity,” in order to understand the needs of men of color. The emphasis should be on understanding the intersecting oppressions and experiences within the social structures of race, gender, class, sexuality, and nation. To achieve student success, educators should be concerned with working towards positive development experiences that alleviate feelings of mistrust and suspicion and affirm the wholeness of men of color. There are a number of recommendations from the authors in the text of how to support men of color that can be easily applied for practitioners interested in closing the gap between access and retention. Sáenz and Bukoski (Chapter 4) include the importance of high-stakes engagement, “the critical period when a student first interacts with the institution, and the institution responds to that interaction” (p. 108) as well as thinking about how first-year programs support men in being successful students. Teranishi and Bordoloi Pazich (Chapter 2) discuss the need of collaborative research models that include the institution and communities in working together to frame problems and addressing them through empirics, allowing for a diversity of thought and experience.

Men of Color in Higher Education is a useful tool for practitioners, high school counselors, and community-based organizations. The book is important for alleviating social inequities in higher education, which cannot be fully achieved by merely providing access. To reiterate, the text is foundational and should incite further research by the reader.

Williams, R. A. (Ed.). (2014). Men of color in higher education: New foundations for developing models for success. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing, LLC.