Black Board, White Chalk: The Miseducation and Power of Black Teachers
“Carter G’s point was eloquent/ Not intellectual masturbation it’s relevant/”
Police get a bad rap. They are often represented as the main agitators, violators, and aggressors towards the humanity of people of color. Why should the policing system get all the credit? I think it gets the most credit because assaulting the body and spirit is the least clandestine form of brutality. Anybody can point it out once seen. However, it’s probably easier to get away with assaults on the mind and spirit, and since it’s easier to get away with it could be more widespread and more venomous. Think about it, it would be harder (key word: harder) for our country to justify a simultaneous nationwide police raid through black and brown communities, but would it be as hard to get away with a mass organized system of propagandistic classroom rituals, racially coded language in textbooks/novels, and teachers with implicit bias? I’d argue that it wouldn’t be as hard, and I have Carter G Woodson to back me up. In his extremely important book The Miseducation of the Negro he states “to handicap a student by teaching him that his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless is the worst sort of lynching.” Assault on mind and spirit before body and spirit. Never seen this text actively used in the classroom? Hmmm…
“Dynamics of domination involve self domination/ So that mental slavery can reach self operation.”
As you continue to read books like The Miseducation of the Negro and Intellectual Warfare by Jacob Carruthers, it becomes all the more clearer that our education system has overall (shotouts to the classroom warriors) maintained its default status, which is to program people to be comfortable with the social order, which depends heavily on systemic racism. It’s America’s oldest demon. A demon they’ve made quieter since colonization, and a demon they’ve made smarter. So smart in fact, that when there are people of color in meaningful and dynamic-changing positions, sometimes it doesn’t even matter because they have been socialized to devalue their people’s plight and/or not care about it enough to take the action necessary under such dire circumstances. This sad reality of mis-education is often true with black cops, black politicians, and unfortunately even black educators.
“Liberation in appearance, but oppression in talk/ Oppression in action, also oppression in talk/ Students don’t catch it so they always get caught/”
You often hear brothers and sisters understandably demand for more black and brown teachers to be in front of black and brown students to effectively dismantle educational apartheid. I agree, but I know it’s a bit more complex than that. You may want a black doctor for your kid too. However, you would never want a black doctor who is contagiously sick physically around your kid, so you should never want your kid around a black teacher who is contagiously sick mentally in regards to racial inferiority. This is especially dangerous and subconsciously sneaky because on face value a student may have an instinctual trust for the teacher due to physical similarities, but then unbeknownst to him/her (and probably the teacher even), the teacher actually functions as yet another blocked exit from the road of oppression. Think about it black people. For those who have had black teachers, have all of them understood, spoke to, and cultivated your identity and experience the way they should have? Or did you ended up feeling like they were “just like every other teacher”?
“Black teacher’s have schooled the earth since the dawn of time/ To stop the thieves in the night, spark the dawn of minds/”
There is a tragic irony in the fact that the people who are direct descendants of the world’s first educators, black educators (read Molefi Asante’s The Egyptian Philosophers) can be caught educating
in a subversive manner toward their own people. It’s like the inventor of the wheel got trained to roll over himself. It doesn’t have to be like this. We understand that we were socialized to lean towards individualism, we can re-socialize ourselves towards creative collaboration. We can understand that we’ve been conditioned to operate under the belief that education is a system of paying dues to an impartial system, we can recondition ourselves to understand that education is an opportunity for liberation from a system that is far from impartial. Instead of bottlenecking black progress through leaving our true power, oppression, past and present unaddressed in our school content, we could break the levies and allow knowledge of self and wisdom of advancement to flood our communities and networks. This can happen, and this is what the song “Black Board, White Chalk” is about. I invite you to the song and the visual depiction of it. Thank you Brotherhood Productions for directing the vision, thank you Sam I am the Son for producing the song. May this be a moment where we advance. Peace and progress.
Feature: Story Behind the Lyric
“these were actual notes…”
There was a professional development session led by Dr. Susan G Goodwin and Yolanda Montalvo that focused on the mis-education of the black educator. By that time, I had developed a new method of note taking for the more meaningful PDs that I attend to, and that method was to take notes in rhyme form. The chorus was written after the meeting, but how you see the verses is virtually identical to how a took them in the meeting (save some minor word changes for flwo reasons). They represent my reflections and my learning that occurred at that PD, one that I wish every black or brown educator could be at.