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The Absence of Black Men in American Schools

Less than 2% of educators in America’s public schools are Black men (Bristol, "Black Men of the Classroom: A Policy Brief for How Boston Public Schools Can Recruit and Retain Black Male Teachers ", 2015, pp. 1-5). This is not an accident. More than 77% of American Black children are born to unwed mothers (Bedard & Wenig, "77% black births to single moms, 49% for Hispanic immigrants", 2017). A disproportionate amount of America’s prisoners are black men between the ages of eighteen and thirty five (Bobo & Thompson , "Poverty, Prejudice, and Punishment -", 2009, p. 349) . Is it safe to say that there is a large absence of Black male leadership in society as a whole and within public school classrooms? The answer is obvious. There is clear correlation between the lack of black male teachers and the abundance of black male prisoners.

Schools are made up of children from a community. Communities are made up of families. Families are the building blocks of all communities. Family is not complete without the presence of a man. The Black family in America is broken. Inner city schools are a mirror of the communities they serve, broken. Urban schools are plagued with high poverty, high crime, teen pregnancy, unqualified teachers, principals and superintendents that do not care for the children they are paid lucratively to lead. In my experience, principals are chosen based on nepotism, not merit. If one examines the trend of high poverty schools, in many cases, the principal knows nothing about what it means to be in the shoes of his/her students; therefore, these principals have no real idea of how to guide teachers and children in a way that will pull them away from the cycle of poverty. Black boys are diagnosed with special needs and disabilities at disproportionate rates in comparison to their White counterparts. Black boys are suspended at disproportionate rates in comparison to every other demographic; so much, that the Department of Justice has filed lawsuits against several school districts around the country. Palm Beach County School District is just one example of these federal lawsuits.

I have been a student, teacher, assistant principal, and principal within the system of American public education. This has given me a unique perspective that allows me to view the critical issues from all sides. I can easily recollect the first time I was criminalized by teachers as an elementary student. My discipline record was extensive all the way through elementary and middle school. Now that I am able to reflect on my experiences as an adult, Black male educator, I have concluded that much of those disciplinary issues were the result of not having any Black men to understand my behavior patterns. From kindergarten through grade twelve, I do not recall ever having a Black male teacher. Some may ask why this is important. Self-actualization is important for everyone. Black boys are no different. We need to see an example of what our potential could be. With very few positive Black male role models accessible, progressive Black manhood has become a mystery to many.

The solution is simple. Black boys need to be placed in a learning environment that makes them feel comfortable and understood. Black men should be given financial incentives to enter and remain in the profession, especially at the elementary level. Black men should be appreciated for the strengths that they inherently bring to the profession. The image of what a teacher or principal is “supposed to look like” should be thrown away. The consequences of this stereotype has contributed greatly to the alienation of black men in education, as students, teachers, and administrators.

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