Open Letter to African American Educators
- Matthew Lynch -
To Whom It May Concern:
During the 1970s, concern grew in the African American community about how children were being processed through the American educational system. The perspective of Carter G. Woodson was rediscovered. He wrote that Black people have been "miseducated" into confusing their interests with those of the dominant society. Woodson wrote that the struggle for liberation is long-term; therefore, the educational system must serve a consciousness-raising function that will prepare Black people to make a contribution to a struggle that began centuries before they were born. As African American teachers, we know that the Black child is constantly bombarded with racial stereotypes and unfair assumptions that manifest themselves in the form of self-fulfilling prophecies. We know that White, Latino, Asian, and even fellow African American teachers perpetuate theories of Black intellectual inferiority (consciously and subconsciously) by treating the Black child as though she is incapable of academic success. Tomorrow at work please inform your colleagues that African American children don't need to be treated differently than their White counterparts, however, it is important for them to recognize the cultural differences that exist between them in order for African American students to thrive academically.
These teachers need to realize that at home, in their neighborhoods, and in school, many African American students face difficulties that can interfere with learning. Compared to their middle-class counterparts, it is true that disenfranchised students are more likely to be exposed to safety and health risks and less likely to receive regular medical care. They're more likely to be victims of crime. They're less likely to attend schools that have talented and gifted programs and are more likely to be identified as learning or emotionally disabled and placed in Exceptional Education. African American children need caring adults who will mentor them during turbulent times and not give up on them.
As African American teachers, we are vital in the lives of Black children because we often play the role of missing parental figures by acting as disciplinarians, counselors, and role models. Young African American students can directly benefit from relationships with young African American teachers 23–35 because we can often serve as surrogate big brothers and sisters and are cognizant of the latest trends in music, sports, fashion, etc. We also empathize with the X generation's sense of situated identity conflict and inadequacy.
I know that you are underpaid and unappreciated, but please hang in there for our children. There will always be days when you feel as though you want to change careers, but remember why you decided to become a teacher in the first place. Your reward will come later, when you run into one of your students that went from failing to passing thanks to your hard work and dedication, and they tell you that they have finished college and have a wonderful career.
Your Brotha in The Struggle,