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Staff Spotlight: The Teaching and Reaching Black Boys in America Forum

True progress is made when a society collectively strives to unlearn inherited behaviors. These uncomfortable conversations must be had in order to move forward in progression. Attending UMBC’s Teaching and Reaching Black Boys in America Forum was a healthy beginning to this lengthy process.

The forum welcomed activist-authors Dr. Eddie Moore Jr, Debby Irving (Waking Up White, Elephant Room Press, 2014), and Jack Hill, head of middle school, Cambridge Friends School, as panelists for a discussion about their newly released book, The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys. The book was created in hopes to spark a conversation around the book’s main premise that white women make up to 65% of the teaching force in America and because of this they play a critical role in their educational development.

The forum began with an introduction from each panelist, who provided their audience with their own unique perspective. Members of the audience were not only able to hear the side of two elder black males who had experience in education but also from a white women who has experience as well. Each panelist spoke passionately about the future of African American males in this country and how they felt their education was being put in the hands of women who don’t directly understand their needs. They went on about the history between the two groups dating all the way back to Emmett Till and offered the book as a guide in order to rectify the relationship between white women and black males. The book offers methods on how to develop learning environments that helps black boys feel a sense of belonging at school, as well as ways to change school culture so that black boys can show up in the wholeness of themselves and not feel the need to conform in order to make their teacher feel comfortable. Although I’ve never been a black boy and I will never fully understand their experience, I as a black woman know exactly how it feels to subliminally feel the need to tone down your blackness in order to escape judgement within a crowded room. Addressing the stereotypes behind their relationship and collaborating on effective ways to combat it is the only way to truly progress.

My favorite part was hearing Dr. Moore and Mr. Hill talk about the challenges they faced being fathers to black boys. As an audience member you could sense how passionate they felt about this topic. They spoke of the constant task of having to shake the world off the shoulders of their boys and how before working on the book they didn’t feel comfortable sending their most precious gift to someone who doesn’t fully understand them. Being an educator is a huge responsibility, you’re faced with the important task of molding the minds of the future, but how can you do so effectively with bias floating around in the back of your head? Debby Irving also provided a few gems to help combat this toxic nature. She spoke of her experience of having white privilege and how its okay to be uncomfortable in conversations such as this. I also really admired how during the discussion she challenged members of the audience who found conversations surrounding racial injustice to be uncomfortable, to use it to see from the other person’s point of view.“If you’re uncomfortable just talking about it imagine how they must feel living it.” She also spoke of the importance of not being a white savior and how one must help others with pure intentions instead of doing it for bragging rights or just to simply make yourself feel better. She did a wonderful job at providing her experience of being an ally as an example while also offering the book as a guide to help with overcoming the stigma surrounding white women and their black male students in order to form authentic connections between the two.
As a black woman living and breathing the same social injustices as my fellow black male counterparts, I often become blind to the troubles that they face everyday battling constant stereotypes and microaggressions. By attending this discussion, I left with a new consideration for the things they go through.

This blog post was written by Laurell Glenn, a Wide Angle Youth Media program graduate, Teaching Apprentice, and Administrative Assistant.

 

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