By now, you may have heard of the racist H&M advertising campaign. According to the Daily News, “Clothing giant H&M has been slammed for racism after featuring a photo of a black boy wearing a ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’ hoodie.”
Black children are viewed as monkeys, not only in the world of advertising but in the realm of education as well. When I first read about this most recent blatant racist propaganda, I shared the accompanying image with my adult children in a group chat. My son had already heard about it (he attends an HBCU [Historically Black College or University] and is very woke) and so wasn’t shocked at all. He went so far to say that even in the midst of this outrage, Black folk will still be shopping in H&M, even on that day, because we fail to exercise the collective power that we have.
This is true. Everyday Black and Brown children are taught by teachers who see them merely as a paycheck and have little vested interest in their overall well-being and humanity.
My daughter was not shocked but she was concerned about the parents who would allow their child to be publicly pimped in such a way. Allowing your child to be called a monkey! Really? How could that little Black boy’s parents allow that? What if a little White boy was advertised wearing a sweatshirt that read “Coolest Cracker in the Box” by a prominent Black-owned business? Would we care then? Would there be a public outcry? Would President Trump himself denounce it? I believe he would. It is the sub-human, part-animal subscribed status of black children that contributes to the inequity in their educational offerings. It is this same thinking that contributes to the following:
According to a promotion for a book-signing,
“The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys” hopes to teach three main principles: How to develop learning environments that help Black boys feel a sense of belonging, nurturance, challenge, and love at school; How to change school culture so that Black boys can show up in the wholeness of their selves; How to overcome unconscious bias and forge authentic connections with your Black male students.
Why do White women need a manual for teaching Black boys? Aren’t they children like everybody else? Everything that this book teaches should be inherent to any teacher, Black or White, who cares about his/her students.
I’m a Black teacher and I never received a special manual on how to teach White kids. You want to know why not? Because teaching is a work of heart and at its core is about humanity. The problem with this and other such manuals is that it sends the message that Black children are that much different than other children. Manuals about teaching Black children are similar to the H&M ad — both dehumanize children of color, isolate them and consider them “other,” like monkeys in a jungle. Black people give our money to stores like H&M that have no interest in us beyond the almighty dollar, just like we send our kids to schools run and taught by administrators and teachers that neither understand nor care to understand our children.
I just read the title of this book again. Is this really a real book? Wow…That’s ridiculous, both comical and upsetting to me. This is like when they say that raising kids doesn’t come with a manual. This is not culturally-relevant pedagogy. Black children are not cookie cutter! There’s no one set “way” to teach them. Eighty percent of teachers in the U.S. are White women and the perceived need for books like this is deeply concerning.