Dr. Steve Perry is the founder and principal of one of the nation’s top-performing schools, Capital Preparatory Magnet in Hartford, Connecticut. Capital Prep is a public school that sends 100 percent of its students to college.
Here, the educator shares success tips on dealing with anger, the true meaning of compromising in marriage, and he defines manhood.
What are three ways that you would suggest that blacks deal with our anger?
Anger is what occurs when hurt intersects the feelings of hopelessness. We tend to get angry when we can’t think of a way out of a situation. We’ve all been hurt by somebody, especially those people closest to us whether it’s a wife or a husband, a child, or a friend. An educator or mentor, the people who we love the most are the ones most likely to hurt us and have it matter. In order for us to be able to deal with anger, we have to work to reframe the hurt. Look at it as something someone has done not to you but because of who they are. Then start to look at how you can get past it. The longer you hold on to the poison of anger the more it poisons you. We see that Bishop Jakes has a book titled Let It Go.
It’s all about forgiveness and I am telling you we as black people are so often taught that to hold a grudge is to be some semblance of strength. It shows a sense of being in charge of your destiny, “I don’t like him. I don’t talk to him anymore”. But it is the biggest sack of weakness; it really is. I say this as somebody who struggles mightily to forgive. If I really want to grow to be a man, the man that I need to be, I need to learn forgiveness. All of those things work together to make sure that anger doesn’t eat away at us. It’s a cancer, you can’t carry it around without it eating you up.
The divorce rate is at 65 percent and domestic violence is at an all-time high as well. How can black families combat those problems?
Marriage is the hardest thing anybody will ever do. It is harder than being a dad. It is likely harder than being a mom. It is harder than running a school and starting a school. Marriage is by far the hardest thing that you will do because it requires us to push ourselves in ways that are typically uncomfortable. We have to think of ourselves not just as partners but as servants at times making sure somebody who we love always feels like they are loved. Then dealing with the idiosyncrasies of just another person who has as much say as you in the house, and having to negotiate. There’s no such thing as compromise. People think that you compromise. One person wants to live in Maine, the other wants to live in Virginia.
You say, “You settle on Delaware as a compromise.” It’s not a compromise. It’s a third decision. So you have to agree all the time, believe it or not, in marriages. You actually have to agree. You can’t “agree to disagree.” “Agreeing to disagree” means you are arguing. I wish and I talk to young people. I was talking to someone just yesterday about this. Loving someone, liking someone, lusting after them, thinking they’re funny, thinking they’re cute are all really cool things. But you know that you want be married when you want to be married. Just because of the social constructs, it doesn’t mean that everybody has to do it. If you do, however, decide to do it, recognize that you’ll be tried in ways in which you never thought possible. That you will find the highest highs and, sometimes, the lowest lows. And, what you’ll learn most about is not about your partner. But, you’ll learn about yourself. Your partner will teach you things about yourself that you never thought were real. It’s almost like, God dares you. You say, “I would never. If somebody ever did ‘such and such’ to me, I swear fo’ God, I will.” And then, all of a sudden, here’s this person who you love and promise to cherish and obey or whatever the vows are from your side, say, challenging who you are. And you are constantly questioning who you are. It’s a challenge; but it’s not impossible.
The divorce rates are higher because it’s hard. And, I think more of us have to be honest with each other about just how hard it is. Because so many of us, when we get caught up in the weeds of it, and the challenges of it, we feel like we’re alone. We’re in a silo. And many people tap out because they think when it’s hard, it’s broken. Every person I’ve ever met who’s ever said that it’s hard and who stayed in it long will tell that it was hard.
The popular phenomenon “make it rain.” What are your thoughts on that concept and how we arrived to that? And what do we need to do as a community to change that?
I’m always in support of grown people doing what grown people want to do. As long as it doesn’t hurt other grown people and especially if it doesn’t hurt children. If people are making such a decision because that’s what they want to do with their lives and their bodies, I have to respect that. On the same token, there’s a point at which our personal decisions do have an impact on the greater community. If we consistently degrade ourselves because we think that we are somehow gaining a leg up, then we’re hurting more than ourselves.
Again, I am not the person to judge someone as to how they earn a living. That’s not for me to do. If it’s legal, it’s legal. I just encourage anybody that, whatever you’re going to do for a living, make sure that it improves your life. If it doesn’t improve your life, it ain’t worth doing. Regardless of what it is. You could have what’s believed to be the most honorable of all professions. But, if it doesn’t make you feel good, at the end of the day, if you don’t feel good about who you are, if going to work makes you feel like you’re dehumanizing yourself, then don’t do that. Do what you have do to do something different.
Manhood is the pursuit of being human. It is the pursuit of seeking to understand how to improve our community. It is the pursuit of trying to understand what it means to be you. It’s being afraid, it’s being brave, it’s being thoughtful, it’s being considerate, it’s being loved, and it’s loving. Manhood is not what you’re not, it’s what you are. We will all be defined as men by who are. Not who we are not.