A Paradigm Shift? Just Because the Lion is Talking Doesn’t Mean that He isn’t Still Telling the Hunter’s Story: African American Male Theory and the Problematics of Both Deficit and Nondeficit Models

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In this theoretical article, we provide a more in-depth discussion of African American Male Theory (AAMT), which is driven by the growing body of literature that challenges deficit narratives and posits that nondeficit frameworks, practices, and

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  PROBLEMATICS OF BOTH DEFICIT AND NONDEFICIT MODELS   © 2017 Bush & Bush 1 A presentation of African American Male Theory (AAMT) was first published in the  Journal of African American Males in Education  in 2013. Since then, the authors have received numerous inquiries from graduate students and scholars, made several national presentations, and been in countless conversations about AAMT. This follow-up piece is, in part, fueled by A Paradigm Shift?   Just Because the Lion is Talking Doesn’t  Mean that He isn’t Still Telling the  Hunter’s Story : African American Male Theory and the Problematics of Both Deficit and Nondeficit Models Edward C. Bush   Cosumnes River College    Journal of African American Males in Education Spring 2018 - Vol. 9 Issue 1    In this theoretical article, we provide a more in-depth discussion of African American Male Theory (AAMT), which is driven by the growing body of literature that challenges deficit narratives and posits that nondeficit frameworks, practices, and thinking represent a paradigm shift from the pervasive deficit model. These recent conceptual pushes, although a move in the right direction, are still deficient, and we argue that both deficit and nondeficit models, as currently positioned, are problematic. Based on our argument, we offer the following four recommendations for scholars: (a) define success when writing about successful  African American boys and men; (b) refrain from using reactionary and deficit words, such as counter; (c) couple Critical Race Theory (CRT) with other frameworks; and (d) create frameworks and theories to communicate the position and trajectory of African American boys and men in the world.  Keywords: Black Males, African American Male Theory, Critical Race Theory, Nondeficit and Deficit    *Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Lawson Bush, V., California State University Los Angeles. Email: lbush2@calstatela.edu   * Lawson Bush, V California State University,  Los Angeles  PROBLEMATICS OF BOTH DEFICIT AND NONDEFICIT MODELS   © 2017 Bush & Bush 2 these interactions, and we provide examples from our dialogues to deepen understanding of the  particular concepts of the theory. This work is also driven by the recent literature that challenges deficit narratives and posits that nondeficit frameworks, practices, and thinking represent a  paradigm shift from the pervasive deficit model. These recent conceptual pushes, although a move in the right direction, are still deficient. Further, many scholars double down on this deficiency when they couple what is being positioned as nondeficit frameworks with Critical Race Theory (CRT), which, in many ways, is a deficit approach, independent of any other  perspectives causing a quagmire rather than a paradigm shift. Both the aforementioned aim to provide examples from our conversations concerning AAMT and our drive to push scholars to reexamine how nondeficit and deficit discourses are  being situated in the body of literature coalesce and center on tenet number four of the theory: African American boys and men are resilient and resistant. Before we discuss this tenet in detail, however, we will provide a review of all six tenets of AAMT. 1   African American Male Theory (AAMT) Tenets 1.   The individual and collective experiences, behaviors, outcomes, events, phenomena, and trajectory of African American boys’ and men’s lives are best   analyzed using an ecological systems approach. Building upon the ancient and current African worldview as well as Bronfenbrenner’s (1986, 1989, 2005) work, AAMT suggests that African American boys and men exist in a symbiotic and bidirectional relationship with other beings, matter, concepts, and phenomena. Thus, AAMT provides a conceptual framework that can be used to describe and analyze the interrelated structures, systems, and processes that occur in these dynamic and multidimensional environments that influence the development, experiences, outcomes, and trajectory of African American boys and men (Spencer, Dupree, & Hartmann, 1997; Swanson, Cunningham, & Spencer, 2003). Given that the environmental factors that affect African American boys and men are numerous and differentiated, AAMT uses multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches. Bronfenbrenner’s (1986, 1989, 2005) model of interconnected environmental systems includes the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem. The microsystem captures the individual’s biology, personality, beliefs, perceptions, and intellectual gifts and his or her interactions with familial, peer group, neighborhood, and school environments. The mesosystem consists of the links between the various environments of the microsystem and is the space in which microsystems engage one another. Exosystems are external environmental settings and community factors, such as a  parent’s place of employment, that affect an individual, even if that person is not a direct  participant. The macrosystem involves larger cultures or systems, which can be physical, emotional, and ideological that may affect individual development and can include regional and 1  See Bush and Bush (2013b) for the historical context, rationale, and usage of AAMT.  PROBLEMATICS OF BOTH DEFICIT AND NONDEFICIT MODELS   © 2017 Bush & Bush 3 national culture, including political and economic systems. The chronosystem involves the  pattern and arrangement of the environmental events and transitions and the sociohistorical context in which they occur, for example, the increase in career opportunities for women over the last few decades (Santrock, 2008). Although AAMT incorporates all five of Bronfenbrenner’s (1986, 1989, 2005) interconnected environmental systems, the theory divides the microsystem into two categories: the inner microsystem, which captures a person’s biology, personality, perceptions, and beliefs, and the outer microsystem, which involves the familial, peer group, neighborhood, and school environments and their impact on the individual. In addition, AAMT expands the mesosystem to include the links between the environments of the inner microsystem and outer microsystem as well as an additional system, known in AAMT as the  subsystem (Figure 1). Figure 1. African American Male Ecological Systems Model for African American Male Theory  PROBLEMATICS OF BOTH DEFICIT AND NONDEFICIT MODELS   © 2017 Bush & Bush 4 The subsystem provides a space for scholars to consider the influence of the supernatural and spirit (Cajete, 1994; Somé, 1994), collective will, collective unconscious, and archetypes (Jung, 1968; Taub-Bynum, 1984). The concept of the subsystem also provides scholars with an opportunity to consider what physicists describe as multidimensional levels of reality that exist in parallel spaces (Kaku, 2005) and how they affect the individual-male level of the microsystem and serve as an undercurrent of the other systems in the model. With this in mind, our aim is to ensure that AAMT is elastic and robust enough to accommodate the work of physical and social scientists who research such phenomena. We also note that spirituality and related concepts are important to a significant number of African American boys and men (Baker-Fletcher, 1996; Watts, 1993). Notably, the concept of the endosystem allows for an examination for spiritual phenomena via the perspectives of this  population. 2.   There is something unique about being male and of African descent. Whether stemming from nature, nurture, or a combination thereof, there is something unique about being male and of African descent. Although AAMT also affirms the uniqueness of other populations and groups and is interested in what makes African American males similar to other populations, AAMT is specifically concerned with examining and discovering what is distinctive about this population as a group and with understanding individual distinctions within the group. Distinctions are necessary across areas and disciplines, is needed for scholars to create specialized programs, pedagogies, and curricula in education; to determine specific medical and psychological treatment in biological and psychological research; and to account for the contributions of African American men in terms of the progress of humanity 3.   There is a continuity and continuation of African culture, consciousness, and biology that influence the experiences of African American boys and men. AAMT asserts that the study of African American men and boys must be anchored in an understanding of Africa (Franklin, 1994; Harris & Ferguson, 2010; White & Cones, 1999)  because African culture and consciousness have a persistent impact on African American boys and men (Fortes, 1967; Herskovits, 1959; Hill, 1997; Kenyatta, 1983; McAdoo, 1988; Nobles, 1980; Sudarkasa, 1980). The study of these relationships requires multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches, and their implications can be seen in both the social sciences and humanities. Research on African American boys and men that does not take into account the impact of African culture and consciousness among African Americans in the United States runs the significant risk of producing incomplete or inaccurate findings. Much work needs to be done in this area of understanding, as most research on African American boys and men does not attempt to empirically examine or even theorize about the ramifications of such cultural, biological, and spiritual links.  PROBLEMATICS OF BOTH DEFICIT AND NONDEFICIT MODELS   © 2017 Bush & Bush 5 4. African American boys and men are resilient and resistant. AAMT posits that African American boys and men are born with an innate desire for self-determination and with an unlimited capacity for morality and intelligence. AAMT embraces resilience theory and opposes deficit paradigms, thinking, and practice. From this viewpoint, it is apparent that social and educational challenges that face this group stem from socially constructed systems rather than any innate biological or cultural deficiencies. Resilience theory, introduced by ecologist Holling (1973), meshes well with AAMT, as it incorporates aspects of systems theory and ecological theory. Resilience theory is concerned with the ability, capacity, and powers that people or systems exhibit that allow them to rise above adversity (Holling, 1973; McCubbin, Thompson, Thompson, & Futrell, 1998; Montenegro, 2010). AAMT is particularly interested in discovering and illuminating the resiliency present in the inner microsystem (e.g., biology, personality, sexual orientation, beliefs, perceptions, intellect), outer microsystem (e.g., family, extended family, home, peer groups, neighborhood, church), subsystem (e.g., supernatural, spirit, collective will, unconscious, archetypes), and mesosystem (e.g., interactions between the subsystem, inner microsystem, and outer microsystem; Connell, Spencer, & Aber, 1994; Murray Nettles, Mucherah, & Jones, 2000; Villenas & Deyhle, 1999). In addition, AAMT connects resistance with resiliency and focuses on ways in which African American boys, men, and systems can reject White mainstream cultural hegemony and oppression. AAMT does not, however, completely align with leading resistance or cultural oppositional theorists, such as John Ogbu and Signithia Fordham (Fordham, 1996; Fordham & Ogbu, 1986, 1991), and we are more interested in how the theory has been nuanced by others. For example, Ogbu (1991) suggested that some African Americans reject education because it is  perceived as supporting their oppression. In this regard, Bush (1997) challenged Ogbu (1991) by arguing that Ogbu has confounded the terms education  and  schooling  . Bush views schooling as the process used to maintain and continue asymmetrical power relations but defined education as “the process that should make people more capable of manifesting who they are as defined by their cultural and community norms” (p. 99). Thus, he contended that what Ogbu (1991) found was a rejection of schooling by African Americans rather than of education, as African Americans have always thirsted and fought for education, even in the face of tremendous adversity and minimal resources (Anderson, 1988; Bush, 1997; Bush, Bush, & Causey-Bush, 2006). Solórzano and Delgado-Bernal (2001) also have re-conceptualized Ogbu's theory in a manner that is of interest to AAMT. They asserted that Ogbu focuses on self-defeating resistance, while they view some opposition as having transformative qualities, as in the case of individuals who view society as being unjust and engage in resistant actions as a means of fostering social and political change. AAMT considers all forms of resistance and opposition demonstrated by African American boys and men as a strength, although some manifestations may be counterproductive to what is viewed as “success” or “productivity” in White mainstream society. In keeping with
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