Teachers are Not Magical Negroes

APS teacher being arrested in the wake of the cheating scandal
APS teacher being arrested in the wake of the cheating scandal

When I was in the 7th grade, I moved from Connecticut to South Florida. I was a nerdy kid that loved reading, science, and social studies and had been tracked into the gifted and talented track during my years of schooling. But when I got to Fort Lauderdale I entered a middle school where we sat in class and watched the Jerry Springer Show, where we were being babysat rather than taught. I felt pretty bummed out about that and spent a lot of time in the library teaching myself. My mom worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, just to keep a roof above our heads, so although she cared she just wasn’t that parent at the PTA meetings. By the time I was in 8th grade, I began skipping school and staying home to read, especially on Fridays. (I’ve been a fan of a 3-day weekend since the early 90s).  I felt sort of hopeless about everything, living in a community where violence was rampant, facing street harassment whenever I left the house, and school had the nerve not to be a place of refuge.


Enter Ms. Bryant.


Even to my 12-year-old mind, she seemed young, probably in her late 20s. I remember she wore her box braids in short bob, which means she was killing the game in 1993. She taught math and was very no nonsense. I was in her class for a few weeks, maybe a month, when she pulled me aside and told me that she was taking me out of her class and putting me in pre-Algebra—advanced math.


Say what?


I’ve been a good student most of my life, but math has always been a struggle. I’m not even sure I did particularly well in Ms. Bryant’s class. I do know that I worked hard and didn’t cause any trouble. I thank God every day for whatever it is that Ms. Bryant saw in me. I flourished in pre-Algebra with the tough but kind Mrs. Klevansky. In fact, that year was the first (and last) time I got As in math in my life.


Curiously, this advanced math class had some interesting demographics. I went to a middle school that was at least 98% Black, yet the advanced courses were at least 98% white.




Only students in the advanced classes could attend workshops where you could learn about the magnet high schools anyone could apply for. If I hadn’t been in pre-Algebra, I would not have learned about the International Baccalaureate program that I would later attend and kick ass in.


Curiouser and curiouser.


So, in a school that was ostensibly all Black, pretty much only the white kids learned how to apply to the elite high schools in our county.  That doesn’t seem racist at all. No structural inequity here—nothing to see, folks.


Ms. Bryant, a person I haven’t seen in over twenty years, is an absolutely integral part of my success. She stepped in and changed the course of my life. I was able to attend the college prep high school of my dreams, get into and do well in college and graduate school, and then go on to become a professor. Ms. Bryant was one of several people who pulled me aside over the course of my academic life and said, “Take this path off to the side. You’ll do better here.”


When I talk to other women of color who grew up poor and working class like myself, almost all of us have similar stories. There was a teacher in the 2nd grade, or the 5th, or the 9th. Sometimes she is a Black woman. Sometimes he is a white man. Or someone else entirely. But this earth angel sees our humanity and nascent brilliance and not a little Black or Brown girl who needs to be quieted down, disciplined, erased.


But what about those who don’t have a Ms. Bryant or a Mrs. Klevansky? What about them?


This is on my heart in the wake of the Atlanta Public School (APS) scandal, wherein several teachers were convicted in a standardized test cheating debacle. These teachers, mostly Black women, have been convicted of racketeering and face up to 20 years in prison.


Yes. You read that right.


George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson can tootsie roll all across this nation, while these teachers are now convicted felons. Where is the justice in that?


Let me be clear. I’m not condoning cheating. I’m an educator and I think integrity is key in the classroom and when grading. But locking up these teachers is like convicting the drug dealer on the corner and letting the kingpin run free. These folks are being made examples of, but trust and believe that the inequities at the heart of the APS remain and will remain until we pay attention to the structural issues that would push teachers and administrators to cheat in the first place.


What, you may ask, does have to do with my clearly noble Ms. Bryant?


As much as I love and appreciate Ms. Bryant, I recognize that she was in an impossible position. I was not the only smart kid in her class. But there were limited spaces in advanced math. Without the proper resources to lift us all up and get us performing to where we needed to be, only one or two could be chosen. We treat smart Black kids and dedicated Black teachers like magical Negro unicorns that can individually save the world when the truth is that we need massive dedicated resources and structures to support us. We put students and teachers in impossible positions, berate them daily, and then wonder why our school systems are struggling. If we really believe that black lives matter, they need to matter in the classroom and in the schoolhouse too.





49 thoughts on “Teachers are Not Magical Negroes

  1. I am where I am and who I am today because a Black teacher –Mrs. Beatrice Gaulden — believed in me. I stand in solidarity with these Atlanta teachers, because nobody loves Black children more than Black mamas and Black teachers. Thanks for this Crunkadelic.

    1. I did a stint in North Miami high when I moved to Miami from the Caribbean. At first I was put in the regular classes then was moved to Some AP classes where I saw white students for the first time and didn’t even know that they attended the same school as I did, until I was actually in AP classes. I didn’t realize the inherent inequity at the time, but I did recognize the distinct difference in the content and rigor compared to non-AP classes.

      Both of my parents were teachers in the Caribbean where teachers are given ultimate respect. It is dispicable how teachers are scapegoated as the people solely responsible for the poor performance of children stuck I segregated communities that America created.

      It’s really shamed I how these teachers are taking the fall for the systematic failure of the policies of high stakes testing that benefit mostly private compnies selling their wares.

      In the English Caribbean standardized tests are actually developed with the input of the teachers and the curriculum reflects the tests. And there’s no connecting to school funding to the results of those standardized tests.

      We do have shortcomings in the Caribbean, mind you but America who claim to be a First world, post-racial, level playing field has some very unequal public school education systems and holds onto the myth that charter schools, breaking unions and high stakes testing will save children in poor performing schools, which is just that a myth.

      1. What years did you attend? I also went to North Miami and although it was a predominantly black school, it wasn’t as if the white students were invisible. The IB students were the most visible students when I was there (95-98), we were the leaders of most of the clubs and student government.

    2. What about the accountability of Senate/Congress. I wonder if they had Black History in history book, this system is not setup for all. And I don’ this world was built off the backs of slaves. Fact is Number there is one race – Human Race. There is a prize to be paid when you think you are above God………. The time is coming God will fight our battles.

    3. “Nobody loves black children more than black mamas and black teachers” is a false statement. You don’t know anything about me or many in my profession, or countless others who gave/give money, time and their hearts to black kids as well as all other kids, regardless of their race.

      1. You should know that phrases like “regardless of their race” immediately trigger your readers to imagine that you nurse nonsensical and ignorant beliefs about a “post-racial, color-blind” society (Note- If those terms do describe your beliefs: Where? What societ? Clearly you are imagining an alternate universe as this is now what I see in my world, Planet Earth, every day of my life.)

        You also seem to be nursing a Savior complex, which the teaching profession is allowing you stroke daily. I am an educator in a charter school- the ultimate example of how our society always has a surplus of new and creative ways to make money off of oppression. Let me use my daily experience of interacting with self-identified white saviors to respond to you.

        I am a teacher of color that reflects the same racial, cultural and linguistic background as most of the student body (there are no White children, but then, we already know charter schools are apartheid). Yet, I have no voice next to White leaders and teachers who are more concerned with controlling, stifling, and silencing my children through respectability politics than educating, celebrating, and expanding their minds.

        Daily, I see White teachers center their attitudes and relationships to Latino and Black children around “behavioral issues”:

        “They need to be silent in the hallways!”
        “I noticed this child fidgeted while you were teaching- fix that!”
        “Give them stickers and edible treats so they can learn how to sit still!”
        “If only these parents cared and taught them how to behave…”

        Black boys are disproportionately denied an education through removal from the classroom, suspension, expulsion (this is stating the obvious if you actually work in a school with Black children). Furthermore, Black males make up the dispoportionate majority of students labeled with emotional disturbances and behavioral disturbances in my school, but really, the educational system at large. (Yes, Larry, the pipeline to prison is real.)

        Yet we, teachers of color, need to smile and nod along to this daily degradation of our children for fear of losing our jobs. Many white saviors bustle along believing that they are giving their “time and heart to black kids” when in reality they are enacting the same mission, albeit under a different guise, of controlling and silencing children of color.

        It comes down to community. Teachers from the community can love their students more because they can understand and know them more. Of course, every individual identity is complex and pluralistic. There are many ways to identify and build relationships with others beyond race, but there is no “regardless of race.” If you are a non-white person, there are daily affronts to your humanity inflicted every day, from micro to macro. Teachers of color at least have access to an understanding of what our children are going through, will continue to go through, and how to teach them to thrive in spite of it (because no, we’re not magical, we can’t save the world).

        People from the community (i.e., in the case of the article you were contesting, “black mamas and black teachers”) need to be the sources of power and decision-making in order for the needs of the community to be met. Communities need to build with each other, not be saved.

        But don’t take my word on this. Of this, I am sure: If you actually are an educator who gives his money, mind, and heart to black children, as you say, then the reality I’m talking about is present around you. Instead of asking “how dare they claim to love more,” perhaps you should seek to learn from the community around you, not save. We don’t want to kept in a position where we need to be saved, so your money and time is not going to cut it.

  2. Sister I love you. You stay talking that real talk and blend humor so nicely at the same time. Well, for me it was Mrs. Hames at DC Virgo Middle School in Wilmington NC. She saw that I was showing out and showed me a different path. I thank her and all of the people along the way who got me to where I am now including you family. Thanks for reminding us about where we have come from and holding these issues in a larger context.

  3. But your teacher wasn’t stealing federal funds to live good with over 5 million stolen. And she wasn’t pushing a autistic kid or special needs child to be on certain levels that didn’t exist for financial gain. This HALL administration was greedy and arrogant. They didn’t care about the kids just the bonus and paycheck

    1. I think it is clear that they need to be punished but there are still valid points about the role of high stakes testing in creating pressures that lead to this as well as the question of why does school funding need to be tied to test scores. If a school if working with the students who are struggling academically, why is not the focus on determining what is needed in the classroom for those children to thrive. Instead standardize test formulated by private companies, that get no input from the teachers are presented as some panacea.

      Again the teacher’s should be punished, but they are taking the fall for an irrational education system,

    2. Sure we can all condemn the teacher who preserves her job by cheating, and perhaps even earns an extra bonus.

      Do we condemn the testing system itself for rewarding those who cheat?

      What about the people who sell this system, or the politicians who bought it?

    3. I’m work for Atlanta Public Schools and I always laugh at your argument. Who was getting this infamous pay for performance???? I don’t know ANYONE who received more than $500 (when taxed is about $350). Nobody did anything for money. I don’t believe that. Intimidation maybe??? What we aren’t talking about are the money African American parents in the city who have not be responsible for their children and send them to school soooo very ill prepared and handicapped. That’s the real problem. Our people don’t value education and teachers can’t do it all!!!

  4. So on point! The following paragraph captured my thoughts on why culturally relevant learning environments (among many other things) matter,

    “When I talk to other women of color who grew up poor and working class like myself, almost all of us have similar stories. There was a teacher in the 2nd grade, or the 5th, or the 9th. Sometimes she is a Black woman. Sometimes he is a white man. Or someone else entirely. But this earth angel sees our humanity and nascent brilliance and not a little Black or Brown girl who needs to be quieted down, disciplined, erased.”

    Thank you for this!

  5. Every time a fiscal reward is offered for a difficult task, someone/many will cheat to get the money. It happened in the Veterans Administration. It happened in the Columbus Ohio school system and it is happening in many other places. The fact that in the USA teaching was mostly a female profession skewed it towards low wages and much insecurity. By keeping instructors at low wages they are forced to be either tractable or innovative. Unfortunately we are not all innovative.

  6. For me it was a school full of Chicano teachers … they were until that time the unicorns and Pegasus of my imagination. And it breaks my heart to see the cheating behavior not because teachers should be magical unicorns or any color. As a nation, we need to figure out how to stand behind our teachers instead of denigrating them at every turn. We created a system that gives teachers, principals, students and parents very little options for actual education, especially in the hardest to serve areas, and then demands that students do well on high stakes standardized tests. And federal funding of these schools depends on the results … I could go on, but I won’t.
    Obviously cheating is not the moral/ethical choice we would like teachers or administrators to make. I hope it is not the choice I would feel the need to make. But why are we putting them into situations where this seems like the only choice to them? Lest you think I am just too biased to be believed, I found this article (from the economics not education section of paper) very interesting:

  7. To America’s ultimate peril, this brief missive certainly captures a great deal and speaks volumes to America’s ongoing educational neglect of its least valued population. Put them in a sack squeeze them and shoot’em if they scream.

  8. Wow, my radio station The Fish, posed a question similar to this. If you know how send this article to Kevin at the Fish. This is a much better explanation of the “root” cause for such problems. Deeply rooted structural issued in society. Atl is a mere symptom of a bigger problem. Please send to the Fish Atl, compliments of me , Dr. Dawn Alexander

  9. As a retired public school educator, I appreciate the compassionate way you address this multi-layered issue!

  10. I do not like the testing systems we have created for kids. I agree the only ones benefitting is the companies who develop them. Each one of these teachers or administrators convicted were offered and refused a plea deal for a misdemeanor charge. They were not trying to escalate a struggling child or a child with possibilities into a higher learning program. The teachers both black and white who would not go along were systematically ridiculed, demoted, transferred, or terminated . Atlanta has a black mayor, a black prosecutor, and a black administrative school system . These teachers were not singled out because they were black. They stole from the entire community and none more abused then black children. They took millions of federal dollars in bonus money. Money was the motivator, they took these tests to homes of teachers where they met and erased answers for financial gain. I am hoping the judge will show them some kindness, I do not agree with the terms of the penalty under the Rico act. Teachers need to be involved in developing the tests for children but not for financial gain.

  11. I had the pleasure of being encouraged by three teachers 2 black females and 1 white male. My first grade teacher Mrs. Vincent encouraged and often told my parents encouraging things and how to foster the gifts she recognized early in my life. Mrs. Pearsall, oh. I love this lady. My 12th grade English teacher. She had high expectations and didn’t give us a choice not to try. She never belittled us, she set the bar and assisted you in reaching it. She was an awesome teacher. She taught me so much and prepared my for life. She really loved us. Mr. Bedford,, he was a special teacher. He didn’t let anything about a student deter him from the love he was determined to give. He made 11th grade history so exciting every class. He definitely was a.special teacher. I truly believe he had no favorites. I thank GodGod for these blessings.

  12. I appreciate your focus on the larger structural issues that could push educators toward cheating. Atlanta is not, and will not, be the only place these actions will be found. However, the educators in Atlanta did the OPPOSITE of what the teachers you hold up as examples did for you. They deprived (mostly) black students of a chance for a decent education by altering their test scores. The Atlanta School Superintendent ringleader, Beverly Hall, was very sick with breast cancer and died recently, so she could not be held accountable for the cheating scandal. But many who were found guilty were principals, who were in charge and who coerced teachers to cheat. The defendants have not been sentenced yet, so we don’t know their punishment. But because they deprived a large number of struggling students the help they needed – and by altering test scores deprived their schools of funds that would have gone to special services, I think they should be held accountable.

    1. I agree with you. I am a former teacher, I understand the pressures put upon teachers. Their actions did a disservice to the children.

  13. Interesting article. However the author has not proven assertion something racist was happening. Advanced classes with mostly white students? Correlation is not causation. Not enough information included to make an honest judgment. There must have been black students who had the ability/intelligence for advanced classes but maybe not the help to reach for these opportunities. She does not say if the majority of teachers were white or black. Or any other factors facing the students besides violence and harassment being the norm in the community.
    The author had a teacher pick her out for special attention. The fact of a racial disparity does not prove a racist motivation on the part of the school. Cultural is as likely as any other cause for the imbalance.
    Her assertion advanced placement courses chart the future of the students is on point. Suggesting a racially motivated conspiracy is unproven with the information she has included. If black students were/are being purposely discouraged then all of us are loosing something of inestimable value.

    “So, in a school that was ostensibly all Black, pretty much only the white kids learned how to apply to the elite high schools in our county. That doesn’t seem racist at all. No structural inequity here—nothing to see, folks.”

    In communities where violence is the norm hopelessness is as well. It takes courage from the most dedicated of teachers to fight the tide to make a difference. Or teachers unable to get a better placement to babysit. The fact any teachers, or students for that matter, are willing to take the risks involved in the worst schools is beyond me. When children are willing to risk their lives and futures for a new pair of shoes but are not encouraged to read then school is not the most pressing issue. As long as swagger is more important than studies these communities are going to continue to sink. If education is not valued at home it will only be the hungriest of individuals who will rise above the ruins.

    If I have’t upset you yet… maybe white students figured out that AP classes would isolate them from the general population of prison like schools. They worked hard to get into AP classes for self preservation as much as to escape the hood. Black students in these AP classes would also be hungry for the choices a better education could provide. And less inclined to the violence and harassment of the less motivated scholars.

    1. Your entire post assumes that racism only occurs if racist intent can be proven. But racism is structural, not merely individual. So the entire set of structures that cause Black and Brown families to live in segregated neighborhoods, the school zoning restrictions that put them in poorly performing underresourced schools with overcrowded classrooms and out of date texts books all contribute to children of color not being prepared for upper level classes. You add to that a mix of white teachers (as in my case) with deeply ingrained and perhaps unconscious beliefs about the lack of intelligence or drive or students of color and you get a situation in which racial disparity occurs. So structural racism shows up through a range of structural problems that disproportionately affect students of color (and these disproportionate effects largely remain true regardless of class).

      ON a personal note, I grew up in an entirely different state than Crunkadelic and my story mirrors her own. I was tracked into lower classes. One white teacher recognized that I shouldn’t’ be there (not sure any kid really should) and put me in upper level. Then I was tested for our state’s gifted and talented and my then Black teacher was told that I had not passed. She implored them to go back and re-score the test. They came back to her and said they “made a mistake.” LOL. If I had not had those two teachers advocating for me, I would have remained in underperforming classrooms. Those classrooms were marked by clear racial differences.

      I know you wish it were “cultural” and that Black kids just didn’t do as well because we didn’t try as hard, but the reality is that there are a whole host of structures from day one that put us environments that kill motivation and limit opportunity. When give opportunity, good teachers and safe environments in which to learn, Black kids frequently excel.

      1. Thank you for wading through the “pseudo-intellectual” BS denial of ttuth and black folks’ reality, which is generally devoid of the privilege of asserting that “cultural is as likely as any other cause for (racial) imbalance.”

      2. You have no idea what I wish. Your assumptions about me are speculative. And hint at your prejudices. There are no underperforming predominantly white schools? No white communities troubled with similar cultural problems of underfunding, low expectation or acceptance of poor results? Don’t worry about school son you can always get a job in the mine.

        My wish is that what is broken in all depressed populations would be healed. I do not believe this will happen from the outside or from a government program. No amount of funding rebuilds self respect.

        No doubt blacks students frequently excel when in the right environment. But every plant in the greenhouse does better than those accidentally sown along the roadside. How much can we expect teachers or schools do for students who do not care about themselves? Or who have been trained to believe they are doomed before they even begin?

        Even if I accept all of the worst racist motivations and structures surrounding the black or brown students it still does not excuse any person for living below their potential. Individuals accept the lies and choose to live within those false limitations. Or they choose and are encouraged to fight. We celebrate those who break free. Excluding personnel choice from the solution to the problems facing broken communities is crippling. I think black children are led to believe they will not do well no matter how hard they try.

        One cultural differences I have read about. There are clear differences between the races. Any white teacher, even if they grew up in the hood, teaching in a predominantly black school or class room is in a cross cultural situation. What may be read as a lack of motivation or intelligence could be the reticence of black students compared to whites to speak up in class. It is a cultural stereo type that black children have been trained at home not to get smart or mouth off. Any questions or too many questions are seen as disrespect especially when the parent has no answers or does not understand the subject. These small cultural attitudes to authority and ingrained beliefs of inevtitable failure are also taught in the home from day one. They may be reenforced by personal experience but they start long before a child’s first day of class. It is not surprising a teacher could miss read the black child’s class behavior incorrectly.

        A child may know an answer but if they think they will be teased by their classmates about their eagerness in class they may choose to act a fool instead of participate in discussions or ask their real questions. Doing well in class can be discouraged by their friends. They take home an A only to be asked the discouraging, disparaging and degrading “so you think you a big deal now you got a A. You think you so much better than everyone else you so smart.” This last example is not exclusive to any race. Just bad parenting.

      3. To Leo’s post below – yes much of what you write matches what I’ve seen – getting street cred by getting over on the teacher and rejecting the knowledge of the “man” ( even when the teacher was black. ) What I most take issue with is your parting statement about “bad parenting” just reeks. If you are working 40 – 60 hours per week and you come home from ridiculously long commute (cuz you can’t afford to live closer to work) and your kids have been fighting off predators that followed them home from school, running to friends houses so as not to be alone and whatever so now tired parent has to collect them, cook dinner from scratch thanks to low wages, try to have good time with them and focus them on homework before they are too tired, while doing dishes, paying bills, doing laundry and other chores and help them with homework and bathing and dealing with their hostility towards you because you are a loser working a joke job cuz the neighbors on the dole HAVE the Xbox and all the games and their foodstamps allows them to have all the good kid food like frozen pizza and chicken nuggets that your low wage will not purchase . . .they want you to quit your job and get on the dole so you will be there for them and you all can eat better. This is much more complex than “bad parenting” because our entire system punishes people and their children for doing the right thing and causes separation between children and parents – if not directly by long hours and low wages, indirectly with flawed public policy. (Cutting foodstamps for people who were already food frantic part of the month was not correct policy and tells you much about policymakers’ “family values. “) Even if you can afford the Xbox but you try to avoid the games that are not age appropriate you create a little liar cuz while you are finishing your work day your child will be at a friends house playing that game you refused to buy. “Bad parenting? ”
        My biggest problem is with actual racism vs. perception of racism. The discussion that occurs on this blog is both heartening and depressing because sometimes I think we are just never going to get past it until we are all products of multi-generational miscegenation. The heartening part is the development of words, concepts, critical thinking skills so that our youth are able to evaluate a situation instead of believing everything is racist against them and giving up before they have even started. We are not living in a forgiving society. We are encouraged to throw people away and then rewarded for so doing. We live in a nation where incarceration has become a standard rite of passage – all the more so for those who believe they are targets/victims of racism so constant blame still does not provide solution. This conversation needs to start in grade school with instructor moderators skilled to prevent it becoming a hate fest by who ever is in majority. Contrary to what many think – children ARE ready to deal with many of these concepts. Critical thinking much better than slapstick no-brainer appellation of racism irregardless of complexity of situation. Or possibly worse, not having concept of racism and internalizing all the rejection and failure vs. realizing that you are a displaced person and being able to logically progress toward corrective action.

  14. I am an educator and taught for years, in Atlanta Public Schools. No one in their right mind would dispute the transformative power of a wonderful teacher, so many of whom have gone above and beyond the call of duty for children in their charge. Totally agree with the magical unicorn analogy, but please do your homework…only 4 of the 11 convicted were actually teachers, and the caption of the woman you have in the photo above was NOT a teacher. The rest were administrators, mostly SENIOR administrators, including 3 who were the equivalent of assistant superintendents. The case is about administration creating a culture (obviously culture is fostered largely at the leadership level) that tacitly condoned and encouraged cheating. that’s why more administrators than teachers were convicted. Again, the woman’s photo you have captioned above was not a teacher. She was an Executive Director, i.e. an individual in charge of several schools. The principals of those schools reported to her and she led school improvement efforts at the building level.

    1. They are all educators and they are all victims of a rigged system. Several other teachers took plea deals. And the point is neither these teachers or these admin folks ‘created’ this culture of high stakes testing nor are the they responsible for tying teacher incentives to testing. But they are easy scapegoats for it. When will we hold accountable those who are corporatizing and privatizing public education in the first place? Cuz this is not what accountability looks like. It’s what a witch hunt looks like. And it won’t fundamentally transform anything.

  15. My story is similar but differs in being female and on the creative side of academics in the 1960’s. In the third grade I had a teacher who made an effort to mentor me. I was impressed with her gold rim glasses and Angela Davis natural and light skin..more importantly, her wanting to care for me. She recognized that I had a talent at drawing not writing so much, so she took me to museums on the weekend, and to see Charlie Brown and she let me be a helper in the classroom. She told me to not tell the other students because she didn’t want them to feel bad. (She couldn’t do this for everyone) I guess there was something that she recognize about me. I could have been just another girl in working class family trying to survive a drug infested community, but she was my one leg up, my angel, outside the home and part of the reason I am now an artist and art teacher.

    I remember she put me on assignment to help a classmate learn to write (draw) a cursive letter G for first name. That student became a friend and protector through the 6th grade because i was patient in teaching her.. I think since then I’ve had the teaching bug.

    I agree many children experience school virtually invisible and undiscovered. I on the other hand had someone else, my grandmother who taught me all kinds of things from pressing and curling hair with the hot comb,( on the stove) hanging sheet rock, sewing, reading psalms, upholstery and then too, an aunt who love reading. Reading was probably my greatest influence intellectually.

    Then, dad had impact too, he provided protected and love me. I was the best assistant when he change tires, oil and shocks on his van. He also taught me how to do ceramic tile and Linoleum and paint houses. We do need to look more closely at children and expect more. Everyone has a gift and talent….whose looking closely?…. what about the kid who has the wrong ones looking after them?

    All those that don’t have people in their lives who mean them well, or expects them to be their best, or to be successful in their given talent, are our lost generations.

    Ok, the black feminist things lives. Thanks for sharing.

  16. In the 5th grade I was doing well in every class except for math, which I HATED. My math teacher was an African American man that we all thought was mean. I was self-conscious, prone to wearing my coat during classes and he would have none of that. Then, he decided I needed to stay after school until I did better in math. What I learned was that he was a caring, supportive soul who gently got me on track. In the 6th grade, I was placed in advanced math (pre-Algebra) and even though I never liked math I knew I was capable of doing well in it. I feel the same way about computer programming/coding.

  17. Awesome article. This really speaks to the problem of education in our country. Since schools are largely funded by local taxes, those in wealthier areas get more money than those with less affluent demographics. Unfortunately it’s the less affluent people that tend not to succeed in school. We really need to send more resources to our educational institutions in low income areas in order to give the students in these areas the opportunity to succeed and fulfill their dreams.

  18. Bullshit bullshit bullshit. My sister’s fourth grade teacher was caught cheating on a standardized test so she retired. The teacher is, obviously, white. 20 years in prison? Are you KIDDING?

  19. This is such a thought-provoking article in many ways. I have many unformulated thoughts as a result of reading this. I wanted to comment now while these thoughts are fresh in my head, but forgive me if I do not quite make sense. My first thought: I wish I knew a way to snap my fingers and fix our educational system!

    Why does any child fall through the cracks of the system only to be caught if a compassionate teacher notices them? As a white female, I had similar experiences in school at times. A few things I never would have accomplished if that one teacher had not noticed me. I cannot imagine what my experience would have been like if I had been a boy or black or hispanic or asian or disabled or educated in other regions of the country or anything else. And, I wish these things did not drive our children’s educational outcomes.

    Why can’t anyone in the educational system find a better way to measure the success of our teachers and students? Why are we pushing our schools and teachers to the point that it is no longer a rewarding career choice? To the point that cheating becomes a viable option?

    Finally, why is it still okay to educate students differently based on race, socioeconomic status, or any other such factor?

    I, too, went to school in South Florida. My school was mixed as far as race and ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Walking around the campus, that was apparent. But, walking into the classrooms that educated me (Honors, AP, etc), you would have thought we were in the middle of upperclass white America. I am ashamed to admit it (because I never noticed at the time or made it important enough to me to do anything about it), but I don’t even think I interacted with or befriended anyone at that time other than white students with similar family compositions as mine.

    While I did not notice it then, it glares at me now. Why was it that way? How did it even happen that way? And, why are we still in the same shoes? I am sick of knowing that nothing has changed. I am sick of knowing these inequalities exist. I am ready to make a stand for real change!

  20. I started high school in Illinois and moved to South Carolina at the end of my 10th grade year. Although I had been tracked as gifted and talented since elementary school, the new high school automatically placed me in basic (below college prep) classes. I didn’t have a teacher speak up on my behalf. Most of the black students were placed in these basic classes just to get them a diploma, but no colleges accepted these classes for admission. It was my mom that saw what was going on and raised hell to get me put into honors and AP classes. I received a full academic scholarship upon graduation. As an educator here in SC, I see the same pattern. However, it is too late by the time they reach high school. We need to catch them in elementary school, before they begin to believe the labels that have been put on them.

  21. It’s funny how everybody can sit around an judge u have to let GOD judge an we listen an locking up all those teachers taking them from there families one teacher just had a baby an want get to be a part of the baby’s life why not 10 do two they were only doing what there boss told them something a lot of us would have done these days an time not saying it was right but if we as parents would study with our children at home a lot of this wouldn’t have happen its just crazy an my heart goes out to all there families

    1. Exactly. As a society we ALL have to be able to just say no and not lose our job for it. Too many are forced into position of just being rubberstamping robosigners for a low wage. Maybe we need a nation wide strike? In my school district the class warfare becomes overwhelming even in the high school cafeteria where reduced lunch kids often just get a slice of bread and an apple thrown at them – not a real lunch – so in addition to being hungry they are daily shamed. I fail to understand how the workers can stand to do this or why the parents don’t complain en masse. In summer the district in select neighborhoods have eating program for the kids but doesn’t it stand to reason that if the kids are hungry the parents are too? Or Medicaid for the kids but nothing for the parents? Meanwhile no jobs but lots of people needing help but can’t afford full business price – so why can’t local schools become summer jobs programs? Babysit, automotive, yard work, minor carpentry, graphics, transcription with teachers overseeing, coaching and helping kids earn a little, get work experience and help the community get affordable services . . .why not? Reinstate community activities at the school. Reinvent schools as friendly helping place instead of the torture they have become.


    When I taught math at schools with high black enrollments in southern California, every other year, the whole department got hauled into some meeting with administration and threatened to issue higher grades or else. The students were years and years behind the official curriculum. This is to be expected in a system that has inflicted so much misery on us for generations upon generations and is still doing it. But, the students would not do even the assigned homework let alone show up for tutoring. The parents placed no pressure on their children to work harder than their white and Asian counterparts to catch up to them. I get it. We’re all mentally WORN OUT from this perpetual beating. But, if the scores don’t come up, white folks take over the schools. Black people lose jobs. And, the black children still don’t catch up. If the black teachers and administrators “cheat,” they go to jail even though it is routine in elite white schools.

    Please don’t cite Marva Collins as an example of what can be done. White folks will not allow, in large numbers, what she did. I have seen and been a victim of their sabotage when such efforts were working for black children. They sic union reps on teachers and administrators so as to not even allow black children to clean their own schools so that vermin does not run amok.

    If one teacher or administrator in a city says exactly this because they UNDERSTAND the system of white domination/anti-blackness, he/she will be isolated, fired and maybe framed for some prosecution. But, if half of them said it in every city, racists would at least stop threatening the school takeovers as the scores remain low. And, they might even believe it is in their interests to give effective incentives for black students and teachers to work longer hours in pleasant conditions to get better results. They don’t want us all waking up and shaking the bars of this prison of racism.

    But, teachers in orange jump suits????? This system of racism just gets more and more otherworldly.

    1. Idk why copy/paste not working. The teachers made posters titled 101 things black and Latina girls should know. They made posters for boys too. Pretty far down page with other offensive articles on site devoted to fixing our education system.

  23. Awesome article. This really speaks to the problem of education in our country. Since schools are largely funded by local taxes, those in wealthier areas get more money than those with lower demographics. Many people don’t realize the importance of the educators in the black community. We really need to send more resources to our educational institutions in low income areas in order to give the students in these areas the opportunity to succeed and fulfill their dreams.

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