Our Youth, especially on a high school level are very intuitive. You may think that just because you are aware of the achievement gap that there is a lack of this among inner city black youth. The very first thing a students is looking to determine from an educator no matter their ethnicity is your “WHY”. Why are you there? (I will go into detail about this particular ideology within another entry).
If a student, especially a student that derives from one of the toughest cities in the country, does not detect your sincerity, guess what? You have lost them. You will not be able to connect with them. You will not be able to educate them. What our student’s process and internalize are loyalty, and genuine care and concern.
The next thing you know, your classroom management is shot. They do not defer to you, they do not acknowledge you. They watch you as your get into your feelings. They enjoy the show when you face turns red. They listen to the empty threats, and placate the visiting administrators who come to the classroom to assist you with your class. Finally… one of them does it… and trust me this is inevitable, you correct them and they will loudly declare that you are a racist.
And guess what…….
You probably are.
I could have been a little nicer… I could have said prejudiced, but you see prejudice is the act of making the assumption about a particular person, place, thing, or demographic before actually engaging it. Let’s face it, everyone has some level of prejudice within them. Nevertheless, when you are working within a culture/ population in which your ethnicity is not reflected, you must engage it reflectively.
As we delve into the realm of racism I have realized in numerous discussions that many white teachers do not realize the impact of what comes out of their mouths, their actions, and their lack of action.
So I have composed this, so that you will know and understand some fundamental elements that will aid you in your understanding as to why your students think you are racist and/or prejudiced (P.S. it is all the same to them).
- You avoid topics that are culturally integral to them. You skirt around it, avoid chapters, and discussions about current and local events.
- You make funny faces or laugh at the spelling or pronunciation of their names. Or ask the dumbest insensitive questions surrounding it.
- You automatically address their mother’s as Ms. Instead of Mrs. Because you assume they come from single parent homes.
- You lower your academic expectations because they are from the “hood”
- You seem to have a lower tolerance for their misbehavior vs. white children.
- You haven’t thoroughly acknowledged or checked your white privilege.
- You curse them, you yell at them like they are animals.
- When you refer to them as “those kids”, or pointedly make statements of how you have never had problems with black kids before.
- When you set limitations on them as far as what they can be and do in life just because of where they come from socioeconomically.
- Your coursework places more emphasis on the culture of white people than their own. Even when 90% of the students within your classroom are Black.
- You believe the American Dream is saturated in “whiteness”.
- You make the assumption that all melanated students derive from the same origin. Get to know them, “Black” people did not just derive from Africa. There is a difference between a Mexican student, and Puerto Rican student, Jamaican student, a student who immigrated from Africa etc.
- You punish the Black students in harsher fashion that non-Black students.
- You are inconsistent with your disciplinary policies based on gender.
- You don’t even bother to check their prior knowledge of a topic etc. because you make the assumption that they could not have learned it prior to you swooping in to save the day.
- You have never attempted to make a connection to understand that the world they live in, and that it is their reality. You make assumptions that “they just do not care”, vs. finding out if there is a barrier at home to success.
- You visibly display a lack of enthusiasm and/ or irritation when you see something that derives from black culture in your presence. (rap, beat making, dance etc.)
- You work in a school that is predominantly black and you do not want to take part in any activities outside of your classroom. For example, that pep rally that went on in the afternoon in which you were to be present, but lied and said you had too much of a headache to deal with all that rap music. Yes… they notice that you are not there.
- You remind them that you could be teaching somewhere in the suburbs (with the white kids) like you are doing them a favor. You came to “save” them.
- You make statements such as “I don’t see color”. What exactly does that mean I challenge you? If you did see them a Black Students what would you see exactly? Guess what, your students are reminded that they are black every day in negative and condescending ways, they need to know that you see them in a positive light. They need encouragement. Empowerment. How can you respect who they are, and their world if you are not trying to to see them.
Our students are sponges and when they release what they have learned amongst their peers and they come to a consensus of whether to be for or against you.
In the spirit of fairness, I have worked with and collaborated with several white educators who have demonstrated excellent classroom management, lesson delivery, and built relationships with their students. Their secret is not really all that much of a secret. They simply started off with treating our students with common courtesy, respect, and like human beings. It all started off with a simple, but sincere question that sowed a seed in the spirit of every black child they set out to educate. A question that gives them pause when they hear it from an adult that is not related to them, because it is a question only those who love them think to ask. One that many of you do not ever think to ask, but wonder why your students think you do not care.
Hi ______________ How are you today?