The Dehumanizing of Black Boys at School

My young black boys

My young black boys

Last night, while watching the situation in Ferguson unfold, I thought of my son, my nephews, my students…my Michael Browns…my young black boys.

Today, I challenge you to think of your schools and the brow beating racism that often exist in our hallways. What kinds of opportunities are you providing the black boys in your school so that they feel valued, validated and not just accepted…but accelerated?

What will be your discussion on campus in the aftermath of Ferguson? Believe me…Even when you think that you don’t need to have one…YOU DO.



Below is a snippet from my journal…an 8 month study on student motivation

A few years ago, a young black boy walked into a classroom of a teacher who didn’t want him. She acted like she did for a while but the whole school knew better. She was one who used to teach upper level courses but in an effort to force her retirement, was placed in his freshman english class.  On most days, she spent her time talking down to him and embarrassing him in front of his peers which made his future of “In School Suspension” during her class period more relief than punishment. At least there, he didn’t have to deal with her calling him “colored”. (Yes…this happened)

The next class on his schedule was math and although he loved math, he hated this class. This teacher was one that thought he was actually teaching him a lesson by refusing to teach him. As a matter of fact, this kid was so lost in class that each day was a step closer to giving up. He found solace in sleeping because…

“Why stay awake when you’re not learning anyway?”

Every time he went to this class, he slept which infuriated his teacher so much that he threw him out again and again. One day, as the young man headed out of the room to the office, his teacher yelled…

 “One of these days a cop will beat you on the side of the road and I’ll watch with a smile on my face.”

Moments later, as he stood in the embrace of another teacher…one that he trusted…He whispered, “He’s lucky that I’m trying to graduate…because…man, I would whoop his ass!”

Thankfully, he was transferred from that class before it came to that because I have no doubt…

Fast forward a few weeks…

It’s lunch time…a time when kids get a little freedom. He can use his cell phone and even listen to music. He finds his friends…gets comfortable, jokes around and shares videos from youtube. Standing near them was the campus policeman. He always stood near them…staring…like he was waiting. This happened so much that the boys expected the cop and saved a few of their jokes to secretly laugh at him.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that his lunch table was the only one with boys…eating while black.

In advisory, the topic of discussion was about  being involved with school activities. Available to him was athletics, agriculture, auto mechanics, band, choir, foreign language club and not much else. He had things that he liked to do…making beats, writing poetry and graphic design…which he learned through a volunteer at the boys and girls club. He turned in his selections to his advisory teacher with nothing more than his name on the paper.

She asked, “Are you sure?”

His reply…”I’m good”

After school, he spent his time at the boys and girls club teaching what he knew about photoshop and graphic design to kids. With his parents working until 7, being at the “BGC” was better for him than home plus he loved teaching because the kids got so excited. They thought that he was smart. He felt validated by their praise.

When his mom picked him up, he walked in the house…ate dinner, played a few PS3 games with friends and prepared to do it all over again the next day.


Comments 4

  1. So sad to read this. Other teachers can make a difference (like the one he trusted). Our culture as teachers can make us reluctant to criticize or even comment on what other adults at school do. When a teacher did something blatantly racist at one school I taught at, I felt lucky it was a thoughtful, honest, reflective environment where other teachers like me felt safe calling it out and talking honestly about it to our students and each other. Even then, it felt wrong in some ways to badmouth another teacher. But the learning and healing that followed in the whole community was eye-opening to me.

    Thanks for posting.

  2. Pingback: Sunday Salon: A Round-Up of Online Reading 8/24/14 | the dirigible plum

  3. Pingback: Ferguson: Response & Resources

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *