I’d like to start off by asking a few questions.
How many Black male teachers did you have growing up?
How often did you interact with positive Black males while growing up?
Did the these interactions or lack of shape your perception of a Black man as you approached adulthood?
I was fortunate to have several Black male teachers, one of which was my father. My interactions with these great men established an expectation of excellence and invincibility when it came to me chasing my dreams.
When I wrote my first blog focused around Black men in education, I wrote from the perspective of being a black teacher breaking into education and the importance of Black kids seeing us in the classroom. But after completing my 2nd year of teaching at a predominantly white high school, I have come to realize that Black men in the classroom is more impactful than I could have imagined.
To recount my first blog post (Black Man Part 1), our presence in the classroom is dismal. Teaching is not a profession people of color grow up wanting because it was never seen a lucrative enough, so there is an extremely low number of Blacks, especially men, choosing the major. Many students of color have so many negative experiences in the classroom, so the likelyhood to “come back” is slim to none. For these reasons we have lows percentage of representation in the classroom.
With a widened vantage point I’ve realized there was a second paradigm that I only recognized once I began teaching at a predominately white school. I realized for many, I was the first positive experience white students had with a Black man as well. In the white community interactions with the opposite race are regulated to a token friend of the family or most commonly the stereotypes presented on television and in social media. However being present in the classroom, I am able to counter many negative sterotypes, show young men how to treat young ladies, and show students how to responsibly handle being mistreated. My presence also creates a space for students to feel acceptance for their many differences.
There is a common saying people like to use to express absence of racial prejudice, it is, “I don’t see color.” The reality is because we grow up in a racially charged society, RACE is unavoidable. However as a school teacher, my interactions with my students and coworkers allow me to change the narrative that “all Black people are…” this or that. I debunk the angry/dangerous Black man theory that strikes unconscious fear in others. I also expose my students to different perspectives especially during these very stressful and confusing times. Through our interaction, my students see that outside of my complexion, my core is no different than theirs, conversely because of my complexion I culturally expose my students to different and deeper schools of thought about what it means to be different.