Where Have All the Black Teachers Gone?
~ An anonymous white teacher’s call to action
It is time that the teachers of color that are left in our cities band together with white teachers to end the abuse of our children and the takeover of our schools. I want to see a teacher of color from each and every city stand up and lead a movement of teachers refusing to harm kids. It is evil that so many black and brown teachers have been removed from teaching and it is no accident.
They are after my friend and colleague, Marcus – a fellow high school teacher and the leader of a local activist organization and huge community advocate in the city in which I teach. He is black. He is the only black teacher in a school with over 88 % free and reduced lunch. He is the heart of the school and is as far from a school reformer as the east is from the west.
The administration is trying its best to remove Marcus from his job and that is making me very angry. I know he represents all teachers of color who are refusing to drink the education reform Kool-Aid. He is the conduit in the building to the community that the school serves. He knows each and every family – their histories – their success and their failures. He knows because he is one of them in heart and is accepted by them and is trusted. He is an invaluable resources to the white teaching staff, because of his race, his place, and because he is accepted. He has a relationship with the community I never will have regardless of my own love and devotion to that community. He is the community; I am a welcomed guest.
It has taken me a decade and a half of working in my urban school to realize that I can never do what Marcus does. It was years before I would be invited to family parties and celebrations, but even when I do go and have relationships with my students and their families, I am always an outsider – a trusted outsider, but an outsider nonetheless. Marcus is the insider. Teachers of color are the insiders and we must do all we can to keep them in our schools as our way of connecting to the families of our students.
If you are trying to take over a school with top-down suppressive mandates, you cannot have someone like Marcus around. He is too dangerous because he can call the community out and can expose the injustices within the school system. He is the community. He, like thousands of teachers of color who have already been taken out of their classrooms, is a threat to the reformers.
Why are there no black teachers left in our classrooms? There are no black teachers left because they have been systematically removed from our schools.
Marcus has a huge target on his back. He can no longer teach the student-centered lessons he used to teach because of the intrusive new curriculum and the testing. So instead of having classes overflowing with students learning about urban studies, his classes are either deleted or are so poorly attended, his job is seen as superfluous. You see, the elective classes he and I used to offer for graduation requirements, no longer can be taken as requirements in the four disciplines – Mathematics, English, Social Studies, and Science. This is happening across the board – but more so with teachers of color who had a history of offering student-centered, student-focused, creative, and socially-appropriate classes.
Why are there no black teachers left in our classrooms? There are no black teachers left because most of them refuse to put up with the top-down management and micro-management that turns their students from human beings into data points. My friend is being written up because he refuses to comply with redundant and irrelevant demands. I see him being set up to be taken down – because he is a threat. It is ugly and wrong.
Marcus is a lifeline for the students in my school. He is the only black teacher we have and he has been in the building for over 30 years. But with few students in his classes, and with an evaluation system that is tracking every little omitted required task, I do not know how much longer he will be able to remain a teacher – even with tenure, even with community support, even with his unrelenting passion to “touch a life forever” and to literally work 24/7 to keep our students from entering the school to prison pipeline.
Why are there no black teachers left in our classrooms? There are no black teachers left because white teachers are letting this happen. I myself do not know what to do. Teachers of color being pushed out and silenced is a huge issue and it is probably too late to do anything. The damage is done, but there is a remnant left who are just not going to go away – ever – and I plan to stand with them. I know I will stand with Marcus and put my own job on the line if need be. It is about the decimation of black voice - it is about class but I believe it is more about race. The spin masters are weaving a net that is going to blanket this country in death, desperation, and despair. And it is all so unnecessary.
Why am I going to stand with the few remaining black teachers? I will stand with them because if you silence all the black voices and if you kick out all the black teachers, our society will have condemned a generation or more of black children to poverty and suppression. The system now is set up so white kids grow up to be consumers and workers (which is bad enough), but too many black and brown kids grow up to be used, abused, and subservient their whole life. I stand with the black teaching remnant because this is not what I want to leave behind as my generation’s legacy.
As a final appeal, please listen to the voices of the children as they call out to have teachers of color in their schools. http://latinousa.org/2014/12/05/students-color-white-teachers/
(This Story comes from Raise Up, a project of Youth Speaks in collaboration with the Association of Independents in Radio, funding by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as part of American Graduate.)