Making School Cool

America needs a new way to sell education to young, black men.

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It was the sort of conversation writers dream of stumbling upon. Walking my clothes back home from the laundromat, I ended up behind two young men from Brooklyn -- both of them black, male and no older than 19. They were engaged in a discussion about higher education, the best part of which went like this:

Boy 1: "I'm tellin' you, son, you gotta get that master's degree."

Boy 2: "Oh, yeah? Why?"

Boy 1: "Because once a ni**er get his master's, a ni**er be [having sex with] women he thought he could never [have]."

As a 20-something raised on the bawdy comedy of Eddie Murphy and George Carlin, my first instinct was to laugh—that conversation was the stuff Def Comedy Jam bits are made of. But as a writer keenly interested in African-American culture, my next instinct was to think, "Know what? Maybe he's onto something."

The Root 100 People's Choice Awards  
Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM