Black Mask-ulinity

A Framework for Black Masculine Caring

by Lisa Bass (Volume editor)
©2016 Textbook IX, 177 Pages


Black Mask-ulinity: A Framework for Black Masculine Caring is a collection of research, narratives, essays, and conceptual works to lay the foundation for an important emerging theoretical framework: Black Masculine Caring (BMC). This framework facilitates an understanding of the teaching and leading styles of Black males, and seeks to improve the educational experiences of Black male students. This book is significant in that it builds upon feminist ethic of caring frameworks and takes readers on a journey toward understanding the ethic of caring through a masculine lens. Authors explore the experiences of caring school leaders; Black male students in need of care; Black males as caring fathers; Black males as caring spiritual leaders; and Black males as caring institutional leaders. This book is appropriate for students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in classes including the foundations of education, the sociology of education, ethics in educational leadership, teacher preparation, Black studies, and scholars seeking a deeper experience in their study of the ethics of caring.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Part One: Black Masculine Caring in Schooling
  • Chapter One: Black Masculine Caring in Educational Leadership: Introducing a Masculine-Centered Care Framework
  • Chapter Two: The Risks of Cultivating Care in an Urban High School: Exploring a Black High School Principal’s Experience and His Castigation
  • Chapter Three: Who Cares? The Ethic of Care for Black Boys in School
  • Chapter Four: Unmasking Leadership: African American Male Scholars’ Reflections on Critique, Justice, and Caring
  • Chapter Five: Masking Mentorship: Critical (Race) Care among Black Males in Special Education
  • Part Two: Black Masculine Caring: In Fatherhood, Spirituality, and Historical Traditions
  • Chapter Six: Black Fathers as Curriculum: Adopting Sons and Advancing Progressive-Regressive Black Masculinity
  • Chapter Seven: African American Men of Faith Care: The Intersection of Religion, Gender, and the Ethic of Care
  • Chapter Eight: Spirituality and Religion: The Foundation for Caring African American Males’ Identity
  • Chapter Nine: Manhood Development and Sustainable Institutional Care: John Hope at Morehouse College
  • Conclusion: Honoring a Pedagogy of Caring for Black Males
  • Contributors
  • Postscript: A Reflective Essay on B(eing)-FREE: Lesson Learned from Gramp toward Transforming Mass Media Problems into Sustainable Solutions for Black Urban Youth
  • Index
  • Series index

| vii →



I probably should have been paying attention to the elliptical machine on which I was struggling to complete my assigned number of minutes. Instead, my gaze shifted to the muscular Black man a few feet away, who was walking threateningly toward a teenage Black male.

“Boy, I will bust you! Now get those rotations done!” The man’s eyes showed no sympathy as he glared. Without resentment, the young man took a deep breath and complied.

Had I been of another cultural or age group, I might have understood the man’s behavior to be verbal abuse. Instead, I smiled as I recognized a traditional form of interaction between Black men and youth, one in which Black men work up close in body and language as they encourage them to be the best they can be and refuse to accept anything less. His approach was direct, no-nonsense, and intolerant of noncompliance. He also gave the young man a warm, encouraging pat when he finished what had previously seemed impossible to him.

“He seems to enjoy working with you,” I said later to the Black male trainer. Intrigued by the episode, I had watched the entire interaction while I peddled slower and slower on my own equipment.

“Yes m’am,” the trainer said with a smile in my direction.

I had seen him work with teenage Black boys at other times and always with similar results. The young men called him “Mr. Rock”—a fitting title.

“You have to know how to measure caring and high standards,” he explained as I smiled broadly. “They respond every time.” ← vii | viii →

Perhaps if I had not spent the past twenty-five years writing about the segregated schooling of Black children, I might have been less intrigued by the interaction and felt no need to engage Mr. Rock about his work with the young Black men. Instead, the scene captured my imagination. I remembered seeing photographs of Black boys in Black schools with Black male principals leading student councils, excelling in language classes, and writing essays in student newspapers or yearbooks that spoke of their aspirations. I remembered conversations with Black men who talked about having no problem with Black boys in this earlier historical era. The boys looked up to the men, and the men took seriously their responsibility to mentor.

“If they had kept us working with Black boys, we would not be seeing the problems we are seeing today,” I vaguely remembered an informant informally telling me once.

Interactions like the one I witnessed appear to have mostly faded in the current era, and few spaces address directly forms of interaction culturally congruent with a vaguely remembered past. I was thus delighted to review the important work of Lisa Bass and her colleagues. Considering both historical and contemporary examples, this volume examines an ethic of Black care in practice and introduces the concept of Black masculine caring. It demonstrates that images of the “tough man” actually are grounded in gendered and cultural practices. Whether evident in the mentoring style of the first Black college president of Morehouse, an adoptive father, or among leaders in faith communities, these chapters show the essential leadership role Black men play in the development of Black boys.

The chapters encourage us to face plainly the challenges faced by Black male leaders and the educational challenges Black boys encounter in varied school settings and to cease to denigrate the boys as originators of their own problems. Rather, they encourage us to understand that the difficulties begin with challenges outside themselves. As I consider the import of their suggestions, I am reminded of a statement made in 1914 at a conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Baltimore. Coralie Cook described the circumstances of Negro children and considered explicitly the ways the circumstances the children confronted imprinted on their hearts a particular sensitivity to a hostile external environment. She postulated that the response should be to view the children with compassion. “It becomes us as guardians of their present to fortify them in every possible way to meet their future” (Cook, 1914).

Cook’s challenge is recaptured one hundred years later in the effort of the authors in this volume to illuminate successful strategies to use in working with Black young men. Still, Black children are sensitive to their environments and they need adults who will train them to aspire. By considering examples of challenging circumstances and models of successful leadership both past and present, these authors give a new generation tools for a challenge to educate children sometimes forgotten in the midst of efforts to measure, rather than educate, them. ← viii | ix →

Often when I return to the gym, I look around to see whether I see Mr. Rock with no fanfare encouraging the Black male youth he encounters. I remain inspired by his unique brand of historically grounded and culturally sensitive motivation that causes the youth to look up to him. Perhaps the chapters in this volume will inspire others to go and do likewise with the ideas presented. Surely, the challenges facing the young men are no less real than when Coralie Cook encouraged listeners to accept the challenge of fortifying and inspiring the children one hundred years ago.


Cook, C. F. (1914). The problem of the colored child (Box 1, F4). NAACP Proceedings, NAACP Collection, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

| 1 →



The issue of Black administrators and caring appealed to me as I considered the ethic of care in educational leadership. I was particularly interested in the caring styles of Black administrators because of the increased incidences of violence and underachievement in schools with large populations of Black students, especially schools with populations of students living in poverty. Black leadership was of interest because Black leaders are disproportionately placed in high minority, high poverty schools, which is the target of reform for most districts (Bloom & Erlandson, 2003; Gooden, 2005). I began my investigation on this topic by studying how Black women school leaders demonstrated care utilizing the existing Black feminist caring framework (Collins, 1989) to frame my conversation (Bass, 2012). The findings from my study of Black women sparked my desire to discover whether Black men demonstrated care in similar ways.

As I began to investigate Black male principals’ caring expressions and behaviors, I realized there was no existing theoretical framework to facilitate my exploration into the ways in which Black men care. The fact that caring, a very basic elemental aspect of humanity, had not yet explicitly been considered in Black males, was concerning. I posited this oversight occurred because of the tough-guy image placed on, and sometimes assumed by Black men choosing to act out this stereotype. In my research, I found that Black men are acutely aware of society’s perceptions of them, and that these perceptions serve to burden and oppress Black men rather than to affirm or empower them. I was intrigued by my findings and wanted ← 1 | 2 → to dig deeper into the issue of Black masculinity and caring. For this reason, I began to gather expert, thoughtful scholars to discuss this topic from various perspectives, and through a variety of lenses in this book, because I believe the topic of Black masculine caring (BMC) is paramount, timely, and worthy of further investigation.

The prevailing negative image of Black men is gaining momentum and shapes the ways in which Black men are viewed and perceived by society. These perceptions subsequently shape the experiences, and moreover the futures of young Black males for better, but more often for worse. The most salient example of the detriment resulting from the negative images and stereotypes can be seen in the recent public slaughtering of Black males by police and self-proclaimed “well-meaning” citizens. These include Rumain Brisbon, 34, Phoenix, Arizona; Tamir Rice, 12, Cleveland, Ohio; Akai Gurley, 28, Brooklyn, New York; Kajieme Powell, 25, St. Louis, Missouri; Ezell Ford, 25, Los Angeles, California; Dante Parker, 36, San Bernardino, California; Michael Brown, 18, Ferguson, Missouri; John Crawford, 22, Beavercreek, Ohio; Eric Garner, 43, New York, New York; Jonathan Ferrell, 24, Bradfield Farms, North Carolina; Chavis Carter, 21, Jonesboro, Arkansas; Trayvon Martin, 17, Sanford, Florida; and, most recently, Freddie Gray, 25, Baltimore, Maryland. There are many others who could be named; however, the boys and men who qualify for this list were unfortunately too numerous to name in this introduction. I feel that the important issue of the senseless slaughtering of Black boys and men by police is worthy of its own research study and book.

Police and citizens alike have all claimed to feel threatened by the appearance, movements, and actions of these unarmed men to the point of using deadly force. Because of the strength and momentum of the negative stereotypes associated with Black males, officers and citizens who use deadly force on Black men and boys feel justified in doing so. Their instincts, shaped by years of social conditioning and media influence, indicate to them that if they do not attack, they themselves will be attacked. This is of concern to me not only as a citizen, but also as an educational researcher. This negative mind-set has infiltrated schools and has had an impact on the behavior of Black male students, teacher’s perceptions of Black male students, and ultimately, the academic outcomes of Black males in school.

When the term Black man is uttered in the United States, it is usually associated with an image of a tough guy, and the connotation is often of negative stereotypes. As noted, this is largely due to the portrayal of Black men in the media as well as the negative stereotypes that have developed throughout years of racism (Coltrane & Messineo, 2000; Oliver, 2003). The writers of major motion pictures call for gentle spirits like Black actor Denzel Washington to play roles such as the bad cop in Training Day and the protagonist in The Equalizer—where throughout both films, he dispatches others either with weapons or with his bare hands. Further, the television media depicts Blacks negatively in general, and Black men are often cast as being criminal and dangerous (Coltrane & Messineo, 2000; Oliver, ← 2 | 3 → 2003). The news media are often similarly subjective, as Black men are generally depicted more negatively than White men who may commit the same offense, and are framed negatively for cases that have not yet been proved. This negative stereotyping has caused a great deal of frustration among Black men who reject these negative images and project positive, productive lifestyles. Unfortunately, they are often perceived and treated as thugs despite their choice to live productive mainstream lives (Oliver, 2003). Watkins, Green, Rivers, and Rowell (2006) focus on the impact of inequality, racism, violence, poverty, and health disparities. They note that Black men are more prone to depression because of the negative perceptions and inequalities they face on a regular basis. Black male school administrators are numbered among the Black men who live productive mainstream lives. They too, however, fall victim to stereotypes related to Black manhood. They are often looked to as the tough guy disciplinarian types, and expected to turn schools around—at least behaviorally (Gooden, 2005).

Black male administrators are often assigned to buildings that have higher numbers of Black students labeled at risk. They are generally expected to establish order with a strong hand, much like Joe Clark in the 1987 film Lean on Me. Black male leadership has been studied; however, caring is not generally associated with Black males or their leadership. The chapters in this book underscore the reality that Black males care, and that they need care. Authors further demonstrate some of the ways in which Black males care, and provide examples of effective caring practices for them.


IX, 177
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (December)
Ethic of caring Black fathers Black males Black Masculine caring
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. IX, 177 pp.

Biographical notes

Lisa Bass (Volume editor)

Lisa Bass is an assistant professor of education at North Carolina State University. Dr. Bass received her PhD in educational leadership and policy studies and comparative and international education from The Pennsylvania State University. Her work focuses on education reform, with an emphasis on the ethics of caring and equitable education for all students. Dr. Bass has published articles in education journals, and co-authored a book, Building Bridges from High Poverty Communities, to Schools, to Productive Citizenship: A Holistic Approach to Addressing Poverty through Exceptional Educational Leadership (Peter Lang, 2013).


Title: Black Mask-ulinity
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192 pages