While it is true that there is a lack of teachers who are Black in the United States, it is not true that this is why Black children are unable to succeed in school. Those who say that race has nothing to do with the quality of education that Black children receive are ignoring statistics. According to the National Education Association (NEA), Black children are less likely to be taught by Black teachers than any other ethnic group.
We’re in an era of “colorblindness” where it’s being argued that it’s wrong to consider race and racism for a variety of reasons. First, it’s being argued that people of color can’t be racist towards white people. Second, it’s argued that race is a social construct and that we shouldn’t “divide” people by their race. The latest manifestation of this is the push to make teachers of color be required to reject their identity as a condition of entering the education profession.
There would be no lynching if it didn’t start in the classroom.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson.
The news is full of reports of parents, school boards and elected officials sounding the alarm about the invasion of anti-racism and critical race theory into their schools. Many states are taking action at the national level.
Last week, an article by Robert Pondicchio, senior fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, titled: I think anti-racism is a mistake. Can I still teach black kids? I debated whether or not to answer this question, because it was annoying. But I know that in the many years I’ve been teaching in classrooms and schools, many white teachers face the same issues, even if they don’t talk about it openly.
We need anti-racist white teachers, co-teachers, and staff who are open to thinking deeply about how they can most effectively teach black and brown children who are systematically oppressed and marginalized. So to help them, here are my answers to Pondicio’s questions.
I believe anti-racism is misguided. Can I still teach black children?
The short answer is: Yes, it can, and probably will, because today’s society allows a significant number of teachers who don’t know black children, who don’t see black children fully, who don’t see their own racial biases against black children, to teach black children. Today’s society allows even former educators who apparently didn’t do the hard work of developing cultural fluency and willingness to learn to become principal investigators at an institute that, according to its website, promotes quality education for every child in America, which is a huge contradiction because black children can be excluded from these lofty goals. But that’s white privilege in a nutshell.
But should black children be taught under a charter or otherwise? Absolutely not. Because a commitment to anti-racism should be non-negotiable in our profession.
I would not want someone who is not anti-racist teaching my children or my students at a school where I work. (Admittedly, it never worked out 100% for me).
We agree with you on some educational issues. But teaching in a public school in the Bronx and occasionally in charter schools in Harlem doesn’t absolve you of racial prejudice. Like your original intent to improve the situation of black and brown children from low-income families in the American education system.
Your teaching experience in the city and your high motivation actually make your thinking more dangerous, because it gives a semblance of credibility that masks your ignorance of black education experiences and prejudices.
I wonder about your former students. What else could they have learned from a teacher who advocates anti-racist education? And for the students who didn’t perform well, what harm could it have done?
Your whole argument is based on a false dichotomy between an effective teacher and an anti-racist teacher, when in fact the anti-racist approach is part of the effective approach.
Also, your article is a dangerous distraction from the work at hand. They only confuse our allies and fuel a complacent base that seeks arguments against eliminating systemic racism. Your message reminds me of the warning and wisdom of Toni Morrison:
The function, a very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your job. This forces you to keep explaining why you exist….. There will always be one more thing.
By giving anti-racist educators answers to the same questions you have, I hope to dispel the fog of misinformation that surrounds your arguments, as Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, expert on race relations, puts it.
Hopefully this will help us focus our collective attention on identifying, training and supporting the revolutionary teachers our children so desperately need. Effective anti-racist teachers who increasingly reflect the identities, experiences, worldviews and aspirations of our students. Teachers who can illuminate our collective future.
Is the search for colorblindness an exclusion criterion?
Yes, striving for colorblindness is disqualifying. Teachers cannot teach black and brown children if they do not understand that color blindness means extinction.
Erasing students of color: their racial identities, their communities, their experiences, their stories, their worldviews.
Your desire for a colorless America (like the appropriation of Dr. King’s words) shows that you do not believe in (and therefore do not know how to support) a positive racial identity for black and brown children. You don’t see their genius. You don’t know how to really love him.
And because of this inability, your solution is to erase everything and make them more like yourself: colorblind, i.e. white.
Colorblindness prevents us from maintaining high standards and expectations for each student. Color blindness prevents us from teaching in the most attractive way. Colorblindness prevents us from offering a rich and rigorous curriculum. Colorblindness prevents us from developing a school culture based on the promotion of a positive racial identity, which research has shown to be important for student success. Colorblindness imposes a white paradigm and a standard educational framework on millions of students from diverse backgrounds.
Although you reject White Fragility, you fit the profile outlined by Robin DiAngelo in his book of the same name. They prove that whites continue to support racial oppression and enjoy undeserved privilege, including making biased decisions about what is best for black children.
Your desire for colorblindness is worse than passivism or refusal to confront prejudice. A deep moral commitment to colorblindness is a clear path to the dark side and inner bias.
Is the achievement gap real or is it racist to talk about such a gap?
The achievement gap is real. And he is racist, as is Ibrahm X. Kandy, when it comes to measuring and thus degrading the abilities and intelligence of black minds and legally excluding black bodies. At the same time, you and I agree that abolishing all testing is not the answer.
Standardized tests are far from perfect, but we need them and I want my kids to do well. How else can we hold educators accountable? Especially for families from marginalized communities where their children are forced to attend school based on their zip code, not on choice, merit or anything else. I shudder at the rhetoric of teachers who say they don’t want to be observed, that they don’t want grades and standards. They will accurately state that they are not willing to teach black children, but at the same time they demand that we believe them when they say they are treating our children well.
For black parents like me, standardized testing of our children certainly doesn’t give a complete picture (yes, of course, it’s more than just an assessment), but it does give us a glimpse, not only of their scores, but also of teacher performance and the quality of education provided by our schools. We need to know if our children can read and solve problems, if the teachers are teaching them well and who we can learn from.
Our history teaches us that we cannot afford to be complacent that the school systems and the teachers who work in them are doing the right thing for our children. Not when most of them don’t reflect their black and brown identities and lives. Not when recent studies show that most white teachers in our schools are guilty of rampant racism in the form of lower expectations and stricter discipline towards our black and brown children. Not if our three and four year olds continue to suffer from the racial prejudice of their teachers.
At this point, standardized testing can reveal and address the failures of adults, schools, and systems that lead to achievement and opportunity gaps and growing educational debt. But by setting up a false dialectic between testing and not testing, you are repeating an outdated discussion.
A more animated and critical discussion focuses on the yawning gap between the mindset of educators who assume low expectations and the true potential of black and brown students. We need to stop allowing educators to blame their own incompetence on the children.
By adopting an anti-racist mindset, we will have a harder time judging our black and brown children by their racial/ethnic peers and comparing them to their future selves – their own God-given, limitless potential. Who they are and what their current skills are, in relation to their aspirations and the problems they want to solve in the future.
If that were the case, we would have a clearer idea of how to help them achieve the goals they have set for themselves. We would add much more meaningful indicators to our national panel, such as. B. Survey data from students on perceptions of schools and classrooms, indicators of healthy identity development for students, and indicators of racial equity for teachers and students. Research has shown that both are associated with significant improvement in the academic performance of black students.
In order to promote collective responsibility, the best future focus is on the mindset gaps and the student debt of black children.
Does anti-racist pedagogy require or condone the infliction of emotional pain on children?
No, and it’s irresponsible of you to accuse anti-racists of causing emotional distress to white children (and I assume when you write without qualifying children, you mean white children). Shame on you for accusing anti-racists of racism – for trying to thwart our important work of saving lives with this nasty racist tirade.
Your insinuation that anti-racist educators don’t know the difference between whiteness and white children is offensive and inaccurate. It is imperative that educators have neither the heart nor the sophistication to understand the difference.
It may surprise you to learn that there are countless white parents raising emotionally healthy, anti-racist white children, and countless white teachers teaching emotionally healthy, anti-racist white students.
In history classes, anti-racists teach children to think critically and ask questions such as. B. whose voice is missing, whose viewpoint is not represented here, is the viewpoint not partisan? The result of this learning is empathy and critical thinking. The goal of anti-racist teachers is not emotional upset, but empathy, critical thinking, and looking beyond the history written by the invaders and touted in the mainstream curriculum. Don’t get confused.
Empathy is productive and powerful, a seed of truth and reconciliation that our country has never been able to master. But maybe it’s our next generation of compassionate white kids who will join blacks and browns as adult allies to get it done. The liberation education revolution begins in our classrooms with empathy and with the truth about how this country was founded and how inequality has been perpetuated and protected for generations.
But colorblind teachers will continue to produce white supremacists. For 13 years they taught white students that black and brown people didn’t contribute much, while white people wrote the classics and quoted everything their black and brown classmates could be expected to do well in school because they always have problems.
Perhaps you can learn something from Dr. Ali Michael, whose goal is to create healthy, multiracial schools where every child can express themselves and be themselves. It mobilizes education as a tool to combat historical and systemic racism and encourages authentic relationships based on the real perceptions of the other rather than on the imposition of stereotypes.
Perhaps after an intensive paid consultation you could rationally, even eloquently, talk to him about the emotional pain that white (colorblind) educators have inflicted on black and brown children for generations?
Perhaps, after some courageous introspection, you can talk about how black people have been demonized for being born, how they have been judged, not just by language but by laws, to make them feel less than human. Then you can finally understand how black kids are uncomfortable in school because of their identity – not just lately, but for as long as there have been public schools in this country.
Are you uncomfortable yet?
If so, then according to your theory of educational change, you may be learning something important. But we sincerely hope we haven’t upset you about who you are and what you look like.
What should schools do when anti-racism clashes with effective literacy practices?
This is a trick question.
When does anti-racism conflict with effective literacy practices? That’s not the case.
The following question is the best one to answer: Why is it claimed that anti-racism is at odds with effective literacy practices?
Through colorblindness and inadequate education. Those who ask this question have neither the mindset nor the skills to appreciate the power of anti-racist education to promote effective literacy practices.
At the organization I recently founded and now lead, the Center for the Development of Black Educators, we are proud to demonstrate the power of anti-racist black pedagogy for effective literacy practices in our Freedom School Literacy Academy. We focus on three main areas:
- Positive racial identity development.
- Comprehensive Reading.
Our work is based on the research and practice of people like Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Dr. Nell Duke, Dr. Alfred Tatum, Dr. Miriam Ortiz and others. At the end of the summer, our students in grades one through three are making significant progress.
Last summer, during the pandemic that required our academy to go virtual, our Junior Fellows were still growing at an average of 70% in reading, while their advanced classmates showed a 240% growth using evidence-based reading programs and culturally appropriate supplemental texts.
There are other achievements.
Almost all of our young scholars have a more positive view of themselves, their community, and their race. Letters from parents describe how their children have become not only more academically confident, but also more mentally healthy and emotionally fulfilled.
Black Educator Development Center 2020 data from the Freedom Schools Literacy Academy cohort.
Why is an anti-racist approach to the teaching of reading and writing, from literacy to academic literature, of paramount importance? One that glorifies blackness and black pedagogy and tells a broader story than the one presented by white people?
Research has shown that greater racial and ethnic pride is associated with better academic performance, as measured by grades and test scores.
Cultural positivity counters the destructive effects of pervasive, colorblind racist education that effectively erases black and brown children to make them white.
When a colorblind person says that every child in a K-12 American school should be able to see American history clearly, he is talking about the white version: the culture that dominates that American history.
They underestimate the power of a narrative that quickly overshadows an incomplete, inaccurate and racist version of history. Because our students, more than half of whom are students of color in public schools, are increasingly demanding truthful, thoughtful, and compelling information about history and language. This is nothing new, and nothing and no one can stop them for too long. They are rewriting the world and the curriculum.
This is not about parochialism, but about how equality in education is achieved in our diverse and pluralistic society.
As long as the lion does not have its own historian, the history of hunting will always glorify the hunter.
Are white teachers welcome in non-white charter schools?
Yes, anti-racist. And those who claim to be anti-racist.
The only requirement: You have to understand that, contrary to what some people claim, we do not live in a post-racial society. They must be able to work with open feedback, including their colorblindness and racism.
They need to understand that they are not being asked to treat students differently because of their race, but that they are being asked to treat black and brown students differently than they have in the past: by lowering expectations of their performance and subjecting them to excessive discipline.
Their critique of anti-racist pedagogical methods and practices – disingenuous, under the guise of fighting a common mission to advance the interests of black and brown children – is unconvincing. Not because you are afraid of dissenting or oppressed whites, nor because you seem to address the issues of race, class, power, and privilege so conveniently. That’s because you’re not reliable in that particular area.
Not once in your argument have you shown that you are someone who can fully see black and brown students, even in terms of racial identity. If you can’t see them, how can you love and care for them so they reach their full potential?
When you say schools are safe places, don’t mention the police state that black and brown children suffer from. How black girls are vilified for their hair. How Muslim boys are forced to wear nicknames because their teachers find Mo less offensive than Mohammed, and how Muslim girls are reprimanded for the clothes they choose. How our children are forced to shrink to fit into a uniform for people of color.
Peggy Brookins of the National Council for Professional Teaching Skills asked this question: Why do we have to teach white teachers to love black children, when you have never had to teach us to love white children?
Many teachers believe that effective education for all children means expecting high standards and expectations from both students and teachers, both academically and behaviorally. This meets my criteria for an anti-racist education. But does it match yours?
Only someone who denies the entrenched nature of white supremacy in the US would say something like. (Ed.): I don’t think white supremacy is a major stumbling block to progress in education.
Only those who neglect the connection between the personal and the political create a false dichotomy between repairing institutions and changing racist attitudes.
Only those who avoid the powerful transformative work of humbly facing their own assumptions and prejudices fail to see that teachers must do this work to end the failure of black and brown children.
Only someone who is myopic enough to overlook the power of models and environments that affirm all cultural identities and authentic relationships with students can fail to harness the diversity of teachers and the power of black liberation pedagogy to ensure educational equality and save lives.
As scientist Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings tells us:
In general, white middle-class prospective teachers have little or no knowledge or understanding of their own culture. The concept of whiteness is taken for granted. They are rarely questioned. But being white is not just a matter of biology. It’s about choosing a system of privilege and power.
To paraphrase Nellie Fuller Jr: If you don’t understand white supremacy, it will only confuse you. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable, but don’t stay confused.
You are not in a position to teach black and brown children if you don’t see your dual role as an educator as equally responsible for eliminating systemic racism. As Marilyn Cochran Smith says: If you don’t see yourself that way, get out of the way. As a white person, you will always be able to teach in school, but our black children will be better off without you.
As I said, I was hesitant to give this answer, but I decided to share my answers to provide a way out of the fog of misinformation. So there’s no doubt.
It is true that we can agree on many things. But as the eminent scholar Derrick Bell has written, there may sometimes be similarities with the most unlikely groups, but anti-racist educators must not forget their primary interest: Educational justice leads to black liberation. Any other solution is an undesirable compromise. I remember you writing in 2016 that the Social Justice Warriors were jeopardizing our alliance for education reform. But we never had a real alliance when you can’t see our children.
There are no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, only permanent interests. A constant interest in our community is the liberation of black children.