The Importance of Mentorship in the Black Community
Written by Lindsey Saint Phar, Racial Equity Committee Member and Match Support Coordinator
Let’s get this straight – mentorship is important in any demographic! Whether navigating the earlier stages of life, a career, a family or a major life change, it is important to connect with someone who can share experiences with you. This can encourage you and show you the ropes to success. When speaking of the Black community specifically, it can be hard to navigate the many obstacles that America has given us. Given the overall biases in the media and some of the negative portrayal of the Black community, it is important for young Black kids to see Black success stories.
In a world that sometimes limits Black kids as to what they can become and who they will be, Black youth need to connect with people who have lived a similar childhood to them that are excelling. It’s proven that POC workers regularly face higher unemployment rates than their white counterparts. An issue brief that examines African Americans’ and white workers’ labor market experiences in the current labor market expansion, by AmericanProgress.org, had very interesting findings; “The data summary looks first at differences in unemployment rates, followed by indicators of employment opportunities. The discussion then turns to measures of job quality, starting with wages, followed by benefits, and concluding with job stability. Regardless of the observed labor market outcome, African Americans always fare worse than whites, with Black women often experiencing the harshest impacts. Worse labor market outcomes—higher unemployment, fewer benefits, and less job stability—contribute in part to the growing racial wealth gap, leaving African Americans in a more precarious financial situation.” (americanprogress.org) Check out the graph below from the same study, showing the stable gap between a higher unemployment rate for Black versus white workers.
Today’s youth need to see the inner-city kid that became a basketball star, the kid who grew up in poverty become CEO of a company or the president of a foundation. Seeing people who have faced real struggles and were still able to come out on top is important for youth to see. This helps to remind Black youth that people have fought for the world to be theirs just as their white counterparts. They are not limited to what things may look like currently.
These youth connect with and learn from the current trailblazers in our generation that continue to make a change and create progress in society. Connecting with these figures can inspire the change and progress they want to see. Each Black child that is connected with a positive role model, is a child given the tools to create the foundation necessary to become a trailblazer in the community. Studies have found that particularly same race mentor relationships have a positive effect on youth, “Cultural differences do influence the expectations for and experience of mentoring relationships. When youth had the opportunity to choose their own mentors, they preferred mentors from their own racial or ethnic background.” (Youth Mentoring: Do Race and Ethnicity Really Matter? Research study) The same study also found that same-race matches had different areas of growth with respect to gender, “Boys reported increased academic competence and self-esteem; while girls showed increase in school value and self-esteem.”
The study concluded that although having similar racial identities did benefit mentor relationships, the most important factor in any mentor relationship is the ability to share common experiences and interests. Right now, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts currently serves 84% BIPOC youth. We are working to increase our number of BIPOC volunteers to serve these youth. In 2019, we had 32% BIPOC identifying volunteers, and in now in 2022 we have grown to 40% BIPOC identifying volunteers, which still is not enough! Mentor a youth in your community today, and help empower the next generation. Visit www.emassbigs.org/volunteer-inquiry to start your journey!