WAOK WANTS TO KNOW: Are Black Students Better Off With Black Teachers?

Today on Powertalk with Lorraine Jacques-White, we talked about a recent national study that revealed that African American students are punished in schools at rate higher that white students.  In addition, black students have been faced with abuse, neglect, and discrimination in schools that are perdominantly white.  These issues have stirred up a great deal of controversy in the Black Community.  It has led us to the question of the day….Are Black Students Better Off With Black Teachers?

In a recent issue of Clutch Magazine there was an article that focused directly on this topic.  Please read below.

Jada Wiiliams of Rochester N.Y., never imagined when she wrote an essay comparing the racist oppression faced by Frederick Douglas to her current lived experiences as a Black student, that it would end with her teacher claiming offense or in Jada having to leave the school. “Most White teachers that I have come into contact with over the last several years of my life, have failed to instruct us – even today,” she wrote. Her parents were forced to pull her out of school when they noticed that her grades suddenly began to drop in several of her classes.  In tears, she told ABC News, “I did feel overwhelmed because I didn’t know that it would become this huge.”

The fact that her grades declined after handing in this essay adds validity to the charges of racism that Williams bravely made in her essay.  RCSD Interim Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, who is clearly on the defensive, stated that, “Teachers, regardless of their color, are able to teach us.”  Most of the teachers in the Rochester district are white.  Although teachers are forced to take sensitivity classes, regardless of their intent, the fact remains that they have been raised in a culture steeped in white supremacy.

This incident will serve as a very harsh teaching lesson to young Jada.  Though Whiteness has attempted to claim that we are post-racial, or that we have at least reached the point where the kind of virulent racism experienced by Blacks during slavery and Jim Crow has so severely declined as to make it negligible, ongoing attacks against racial minorities continue to be pervasive in almost every social institution – the exception, of course, being inside (some) Black families. This means that charges of racism are often reduced to the minority in question being too sensitive or playing the so-called “race card” to invoke sympathy.

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research reported in 2006 that the graduation rate for the year 2003 was seventy percent.  When the numbers are divided by race and gender however, the success rate drops drastically.

  • Nationally, the graduation rate for white students was 78 percent, compared with 72 percent for Asian students, 55 percent for African-American students, and 53 percent for Hispanic students.
  • The gender gap in graduation rates is particularly large for minority students. Nationally, about 5 percentage points fewer white male students and 3 percentage points fewer Asian male students graduate than their respective female students. While 59 percent of African-American females graduated, only 48 percent of African-American males earned a diploma (a difference of 11 percentage points). Further, the graduation rate was 58 percent for Hispanic females, compared with 49 percent for Hispanic males (a difference of 9 percentage points).

This suggests that though Jada’s paper was completely experiential, clearly some sort of race bias must be in place.  Black children arrive at school as eager to learn as their White counterparts, and yet by the third grade, many have either fallen behind, or else they are routinely labeled as “problem children.” The only true universal subjects are math and science because they are not open to interpretation; the answers are either right or the wrong.  All other subjects are graded based on the teachers’ evaluation of performance, which leaves much room for racism.

A teacher need not evaluate unfairly to added racial bias to the classroom.  All he or she has to do is to spend less time instructing minority students in their class or fail to encourage them to excel in the same manner as they do white students.  In The Biography of Malcolm X, one of the most memorable scenes for me was that of the white teacher telling Malcolm to seek a manual labor job, even though he was clearly intelligent and desired to go to law school.

The Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision brought an end to segregation in schools, and for the first time, Black students were exposed to White teachers.  This has not necessarily been positive for Black children.  The history that is taught in schools is framed through a lens of White supremacy, with additives like Black History Month being thrown to mask enormous inequalities in education. Today’s students are forced to learn the oppressor’s truth by a white supremacist educational system that presents heavy-handed biases into history, language, and even the arts.

Jada’s teacher was only able to personalize her essay because it has become the common belief that living with racism is less harmful then being accused of being a racist.  The teacher’s reaction, while not surprising, is disappointing.  Instead of leading to persecution, Jada’s essay should have been an impetus to create change that ensures all students are performing to their best abilities and receiving equal treatment.

Though Jada faced persecution for speaking her truth, The Frederick Douglas Foundation of New York presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award. It is my hope that this award will serve to encourage her to keep speaking her truth in the face of resistance and empower her to continue to seek excellence.

Take a listen at a few clips of today’s show.

Black Students Part 1:

Black Students Part 2:




More from Power Talk with Lorraine Jacques-White
  • Steven G Williams

    This is one of the most unethical articles I have ever seen. Why would CBS Atlanta as such a racist question and encourage racial segregation. I’m white and I find this very offensive to all races. Why not stop trying to find the differences in our races and start seeing that we are all human regardless of race and treat us all with equal values. STOP THE HATE!

    • Pianki

      What hate?. Just the other day the President of France, which is a Ally and a friend to the United States, Nicolas Sarkozy stated that France has too many immigrants. Other words too many non white French. No black U.S Congress person took him to task.
      Black teachers that are qualified has proven to be better educators for the children of their own cultural and life experienced perspectives. Once educated those same children can go anywhere in the world and get skills. That education would have taught them to take those skills back into their community and make it stronger. There are many schools with all black and even non certified staff who are turning out great products. My children never had a single white teacher until they went off to higher skills attainment Universities. Same todaay for my grandchildren.

      • Steven G Williams

        Like I said it always boils down too color, you yourself seem to have an issue white teachers and have proven my point. When are people going to judge each other by the content of character and not by the color of their skin. Enough of this its all BS.

  • Porsha

    Steven, there is nothing wrong with this article, period. I personally feel like black boys need to be segregated into schools away from black females and only taught by strong intelligent black men that can teach them our history- black history everyday.

    Now do i believe that all white teachers miseducate black children, NO, there are some good white teachers that do not see color, but then there are those who do not have a clue as to how to relate to black children. There are those white teachers who come to the table with their noses stuck in the air when it comes to black children, and i have personally had to intervene with several trying to railroad my child and other black honor students to keep them from getting Hope and to keep them from becoming the Valedictorian of a predominately white school…… so racism does exist.

    Then you have the classist blacks that do harm as well to black children especially poor black children. But that is why black parents have to be involved and know the teachers. I asked several of my childs white teachers flat out, ” why do you want to teach black children?” Their answer determined whether or not i would pay close attention to whats going on in that classroom as far as testing and grading is concerned.

    You asked when are people going to be judged on character rather than color, thats a question that blacks have been asking America for a very long time. I believe that education is power, so in America, why would i believe that most white educators are passionate about teaching a black child to become powerful? This is why real black history is only given a month, because if young black children really knew the truth about the greatness and contributions of their culture around the world, then they would realize that whites have been teaching them a bunch of lies that is rooted in white supremecy, rendering them powerless instead.

    • Steven G Williams

      Yeah there was another person and group that had a similar ideology. They believed that only they could teach their race and that their race was the Master race. I won’t speak his name because he was pure evil. I do not believe what you say partially because I grew up in a very ethnic community and I seen how people of all different ethnic backgrounds thrived when working together. My favorite teacher was a Hindu teacher and I learned more from him than anyone, If we would have stuck to each race only teaching their color then I would have been denied the life I have today. I’m not ignorant of the hate that many cultures hold against each other, I just choose to look past the foolishness and see that there is hope for all Americans. After all at the end of the day that’s what we are Americans not black, not white, not olive our true colors are red white and blue. If we keep separating ourselves from one another how do you expect us to come together and prosper. Thing is you can’t have it both ways. I’m all for home schooling, parents should be reserved the right to teach their own children if they so choose. Dr. King had a dream and it wasn’t black only school’s if that is what you believe then you truly did not under stand the teachings of a great American Pioneer.

      • Porsha

        Steven, i absolutely understood Dr. King, especially when he stated that he was arfaid that he had lead his people into a burning house with the movement itself. You cannot deny that in America the lingering effects of white supremecy are still alive and kicking……… lets look at the black/white doll experiment, why is it that you think that in todays society that both young black children along with white children pick the white doll as being the prettiest, the smartest, the nicest, and the most angelic? Who and what is making these children feel this way?

        Blacks wanting their children to be educated by caring blacks is not the same as being a racist, its called being proactive. And whites have a subtle way of seperating their children from black children, they simply move in districts that are predominately white, vote to keep those district lines white, and the minute they see too many blacks coming they simply redistrict or rezone those lines, so all is not as harmonious as you may like it to be with the races.

        I too am hopeful, but i am also a realist, growing up in a predominately black neighborhood, and having the privalegde of being educated by dedicated black and a few white teachers as well, i just know first hand how effective that experience can be in molding a young black childs mind and self esteem, and i want that for these black children today that are falling through the cracks.

  • The Black Falcon

    Let us assume that there is some validity to this article. Then, the Black students in the metro Atlanta area should be achieving at astronomical rates since APS, Dekalb, and Clayton Counties are Black run and have been for generations. Yet the graduation rate for Black males in the metro area is an astonishing 42%. How cqan this be? The teachers are primarily Black. The students are Black. Yet 58% percent do not graduate. To me, to narrow the problem down to the color of the teacher is a gross over-simplification of a much more complex problem. But this being WAOK, to make everything about Black and White does not surprise me. However, you would think that someone at the radio station would look at what is happening in Atlanta instead of New York and make a rational decision that it cannot be reduced to the color of the teacher. They would simply need to look at the graduation rate for the Black students in Black school districts (i.e. metro Atlanta) to realize this.

  • Uncle Tom Bill

    Black teachers should teach Black children, because of culture. I grew up in segregated schools in the South back in the 40’s and 50’s, and our teachers were very dedicated to helping Black students learn. Reflecting back on the past, perhaps Blacks would have fared better if the states had really lived up to the “Separate but equal” mandate.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Taz Goes Big With A New Daily Show!
Popeyes Crash Your House!

Watch & Listen