As Black educators we must take a stand for our black boys, love them or leave them alone. As Ava DuVernay’s latest Film When They See Us points out, when they see us, they fear us and develop narratives no matter how different the truth is. Who are they? Bigots, racists, oppressors or small minded folks who refuse to analyze America and it’s sorted history with racism. It’s safe to say if you grew up in America, prejudice and bias runs deep within you, so we must consciously fight to dismantle it, especially in our schools. When we see them we need a new, unified response. They are ready to act when they see black boys, so let’s meet them where they are be ready to challenge the status quo when we see them.
Black boys specifically are over suspended, over expelled, and placed into remedial classes faster than any other sub-group in this country. We must love these babies that much more fiercely, because this country continues to tell them “you don’t matter”. When the world has only feared you, it's a wonder you continue to thrive. So to counterbalance the acts of ignorance and hate, educators must love them extra. Now be clear love doesn’t mean low expectations, in fact it means the opposite high standards, high belief that they can reach them, and high support to make sure they do so. How do you do this? We have a few suggestions:
SEE THEM AS PEOPLE, NOT STATISTICS or NARRATIVES
Ask them questions, get to know them, learn about their parents/families, find out what they love to do. When you really see them, you will grow to love them because they are beautifully made.
TELL THEM YOU CARE
It’s never been helpful to anyone to hear “I got my degree, you need yours” so stop using that destructive and privileged language. Instead tell them “I care about you, I know what it takes to get to college, and I’m here to help you accomplish your goals”. It lands better, gets desired results faster, and saves you from looking like an ass.
SET HIGH EXPECTATIONS, KEEP THEM THERE
You help absolutely no one by lowering the bar because you think it’s best for their future.Too many teachers “underestimate the potential of black children more than that of whites” (Smith, 2005), so avoid that.Truth moment-a study found that “the effort and academic motivation put forth by African American students was as high or higher than that of White students” (Smith, 2005). The real question is how will you use that motivation to help them.
This is the responsibility of every educator regardless of race, remember you joined an ongoing intense fight for equality. Therefore we don’t have time for you to get your bearings, and then act. We need you to join the right side of history and call out the hate when you see it, immediately. My son, who is 4 is more than someone else’s fear, and I plan on making sure the world learns to see him for all his complexities and greatness. I fight for all black boys, because their stories are rich and full of resilience. Make some time to listen today because that small action impacts them more than you know!
Keep fighting for equality,