In Praise of Black Teachers…or Why Integration May Not Have Been Such A Good Thing (#BlackLivesMatter)

With the start of school for most, I’m in a nostalgic mood about school–which means I need to find another one to get into.

I am who (and where) I am because of one teacher, Mary Gaines, my fourth grade teacher. Momma (yes, I have two mothers, but neither are lesbian) is the reason I went to college. Momma is the reason I wasn’t tracked into the non-college prep track in middle and high school, which would have happened even though most of the time I test well. And yes, this happened because Momma is black. For as long as I’ve thought about it, I do wonder if a white teacher would have gone to the mat the same way that Momma did.

I say all of this because I’m getting ready to say something not politically correct; separate-but-equal schools may not necessarily be a bad thing.

Research has shown time and again that white teachers treat children of color (especially black children) differently and have lower expectations for/of them. And we know that school discipline policies are applied more harshly to children of color. So maybe we need to rethink this integration thing, at least with young children of color.

Black teachers matter to black children. And if this is correct–most teachers—over 80 percent—are white, and surveys suggest that won’t change anytime soon. Among the ACT-tested graduates in 2014 who said they planned on pursuing an education major, 72 percent were white, compared to 56 percent of all tested students–the next generation of black children will be discarded in the same way the last generation-and-a-half of black children have been.

White supremacy is killing us, in more ways than one. Whether it’s scared white teachers and School Resource Officers (did you see the tape that came out of Covington, KY?) or the beat cop or the rest of the criminal justice system, black children are in danger. The easiest and best way to equip them to handle the outside world that is set on killing them, whether psychically or physically, (and not hoping on white people changing anytime soon) is to put them in all-black (or mostly black) schools with black teachers. Yet that might be a challenge because just 23 percent of Chicago’s public-school teachers are black, down from 40 percent in 2000. If that’s the situation in Chicago, then imagine what the black teacher shortage is elsewhere.

The school-to-prison pipeline is real. So is the death-by-school pipeline. In order to go after one, we have to go after the other.  And one way to do that is to have separate-but-equal schools. [if one looks at the most recent numbers, schools are segregated more now than they were in the 1960s. taking that as a given, let’s work on ways to make those minority-majority schools equal.]

*here ends the not politically correct post*

[articles that talk about the research are here and here]