How can we provide culturally responsive strategic mentoring for Black males? New qualitative study has answers.

Robinson, Q. L. (2021). Strategic Mentoring: A Culturally Responsive Approach for Supporting Black Males. Journal of Black Studies, 0021934721998068.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • Although research highlights the importance of mentoring has on youth-related outcomes, the overall effectiveness of mentorships depends on the relationship structure.  
  • This qualitative study explores how mentoring can promote positive social and educational outcomes for Black males living in single-parent homes.  
  • Although the participants never had a mentor before, many understood how having a relationship with a same-sex mentor can enrich their lives academically and socially. 
  • Many interviews highlighted how mentoring built on commitment, trust, and communication benefit Black mentees.
  • Researchers and practitioners need to distinguish the differences (as well as the pros and cons) between unstructured and strategic mentoring. 

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Young Black males living in single-parent homes, in spite of never having a mentor, understand the value of a responsible same-sex mentor. Thirteen Black males between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five offered well-expressed thoughts on mentoring and why they believe mentoring adds value to their lives. They characterized unstructured mentoring as a process without a specific agenda. The consideration of Black males struggling without a father in the home requires the serious consideration of strategic mentoring as a solution for change. Strategic mentoring has a clear purpose, is communication-centric, is designed to develop during the course of a long-term mutual commitment between mentor and mentee, and incorporates the child’s mother into the mentoring experience.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

Discovering that Black males grow up in single-parent homes is not new or surprising information; for years, research reported that a large percentage of Black males live in single-parent homes without fathers. Young men living without a father in the home appreciate the utility of a mentoring relationship and they have a personal understanding of how the process should be conducted and specific ways it might impact their individual lives. Participants were clear that an effective, well-developed mentoring relationship could change their attitudes about school and how they perform in the classroom. More importantly, it would provide them with tools to move through society more effectively. Whiting (2006) suggests that having a father or a mentor present in the lives of young Black males can make a difference in their overall school performance. It becomes increasingly apparent that young Black males without fathers in the home need structured guidance from adult males who are willing to commit to the mentoring process. Evans (2000), along with Jackson et al. (2014), both suggest that structured mentoring can provide the needed support to help change educational outcomes for young Black males and that it can serve as a key element in the well-being of fatherless young Black men. However, in order for this to happen, adult Black males must take up the charge and serve as mentors and, when they do, they should approach mentorship strategically.

Strategic mentoring is a way of improving academic and social skills while supporting intrapersonal development for Black males. Asante (1998) argued that how a mentor effectively involves himself in the mentoring process is what empowers the mentoring and makes the mentoring strategic, purposeful, and life changing. Strategic mentoring is an organized collaborative process that forces reflection and motivates the mentees to participant academically and socially; importantly, it focuses on the future and emphasizes that choices carry consequences. Strategic mentoring demands that the mentees’ mother is included and given the opportunity to share in how decisions are made. Strategic mentoring is directly associated with building a path of support associated with improving the social-emotional and academic growth of the mentee. According to Grantham (2004), how the mentoring is structured is a direct function of the type of mentoring experience in which the mentor and mentees will engage.

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