For the past few weeks, every time I see the cover of a local New York City newspaper there are reports of incidents of blatant racism and discrimination against students of color. This week, sadly, is no exception.
According to an article published this Monday in the Daily News,
Liriano [a teacher in the NYC DOE] said she was beginning a class [one] Wednesday when Catania [the principal] pulled her aside and told her not to give lessons about the famed Harlem Renaissance movement of literature and art in the 1920s….“She said I’m not a social studies teacher so why am I teaching my students about black history?” Liriano said. “Her tone was very harsh, as if I committed a heinous crime.”
Empowering Black students with the rich contributions their ancestors have made to U.S and global history is often perceived as a crime. Historically, it was illegal for Blacks to learn to read and write, under penalty of death. Today, children are only taught a minuscule portion of Black History. Not even in February – Black History Month — is teaching Black History “allowed.” How many teachers in the NYC Department of Education can actually say that Black History lessons are taught year-round? I’m curious to hear their response, as I already have my own experience that speaks to our limited curriculum..
Aside from Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth (maybe), Rosa Parks and, of course, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Black people are relegated solely to picking cotton and marching for rights within the scope and sequence of the curriculum taught in New York City public schools. Any additional knowledge about Black History — American History, as it were – that students receive is because conscious, culturally-sensitive educators create units and lesson plans for that express purpose. For teachers who teach to the test, they surely don’t touch on any learning opportunities outside of slavery and the Civil Rights movement — and whatever limited else is on the Regents exam that is tied to their grade-level content. This disparity in education goes unchecked because, quite frankly, a lot of principals are culturally-insensitive.
In a blog post I wrote last week, I made some very strong assertions, one of which declares that continuing to put students in classrooms with teachers who lack a wide range of cultural knowledge and sensitivity is dangerous. I stand by that claim and will take it a step further to add that placing teachers in schools where the administration is racist is equally as damaging. Hostile environments are never good for anyone in them. In cases like the one the Daily News article presents, allowing such principals to lead is akin to allowing an untreated, malignant educational cancer to fester and grow. Teachers can go teach somewhere else. Children — poor Black and Brown children — don’t have as many options as to where they can attend school or who teaches them in the schools they attend. They are the ones who suffer the most.
I can’t help but notice that when it is Black and Brown children’s educations on the line, there’s a lack of care and concern toward them.
Am I the only one who sees this? What’s being done about it? Are our babies expected to just languish or are we finally going to do something about the racist practices that prevail in the curriculum and leadership of our schools? I’m waiting…..