Why is it a problem for some when academic spaces are comprised of more Black teachers than White teachers? I continue to be baffled by the resistance to this change, especially from White teachers. The reality is that many Black teachers function in predominantly White academic spaces for the entirety of our careers, often without an ally in sight. In far too many schools across the New York City Department of Education and in school districts across Long Island, the administration and staff simply do not reflect the cultural needs of the Black and Brown students and staff. It’s 2019. Something is wrong with this picture. Those who work to dismantle and redesign this educational structure rooted in racism, denial, and inequitable practices and privileges are met with covert resistance that, if left unaddressed, can wear away at the very core of why we Black teachers entered the teaching profession in the first place.
If Black teachers feel this resistance, imagine how Black students must feel?
Think about it. You’re a Black student. All your teachers are White. No Black teacher — none for 13 years, with the exception of one here or there – maybe. At every turn of that Black student’s life, the model they see replicated over and over again is that White people are consistently in decision-making positions of power in ways that directly impact their lives. Are White teachers capable of teaching and caring for Black students? Yes, of course they are. I had just about all White teachers, with the exception of one for Home Economics for half a semester in my freshman year of high school. I had positive experiences with my teachers; however, the deeper connection that I got to experience with Black professors once I got to college – and that was as an adult – was unlike any I’d had before. I felt robbed that I was not afforded the chance to experience that earlier in my academic pursuits.
Proposals and initiatives come and go, claiming to address inequitable hiring practices. But they’re met with staunch pushback from teachers and others in the education field who not only question the need for more Black teachers but appear offended at the mere mention of it.
That’s what I have a problem with – and it goes beyond the classroom. Why is it such a problem if the tables shift a little bit and, in an effort to address rampant implicit biases, Black teachers and administrators are featured more prominently in our schools? In this quest for equity, the tables have to shift! It’s inevitable. This is not just a necessary paradigm shift in education! This shift is needed in public and private sectors across this nation! Why are culturally responsive training sessions being led by all-White teams of teachers? I mean, c’mon people! Does anyone else besides other Black teachers see something wrong with this? We need a seat at the table!
As well intentioned and good-hearted as one may be, they do not, cannot, and never will know the depth and breadth of our lived experiences being Black in America. That’s not you, beloved. You have other things you bring to the table – different things – but not my things. You could never have my things..
Black students need to be exposed to Black excellence in the form of their Black teachers – and not just one! The token one or two Black teachers in a staff of 30 is unconscionable! It’s insulting! I consider it to be a form of a micro-aggression.
I’ve written about us “warm demanders” before, Black teachers who teach our children not just reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also how to successfully navigate being Black in America. The absence of these models of Black excellence is a national problem that, if fixed, will all but fully erase the achievement gap. The truth is the achievement gap is falsely labeled: It’s the opportunity gap. This gap is rooted in the systematic denial of the essence of Brown vs. Board of Education and has a direct causal effect on certain populations of students “underperforming.” Where is the accountability of our State Education Department to really help our students most in need?