As a black woman and black educator I find that I often have to prove my blackness to the children I teach. #blackwomenatwork
I’m a firm believer that black children need black teachers. It’s what keeps me going on the hardest of days. It’s what keeps me patient in what can sometimes be a sea of (controlled. . . always controlled) chaos. It’s what keeps me sane when the lesson – be it social or academic – is just not sinking in.
All too often – kids simply forget that I am more like them than not.
It’s as if one can’t be smart and black.
It’s baffling to me because after having passed the ever changing five year average teacher hump – I find it really easy to connect with kids, especially the ones that look like me and grow up similar to how I grew up. And, I thought that they’d feel the same way.
Sometimes, adults that look like you and live how you live just get it.
But, that’s not always the case – I’ve found.
Though kids often say to me –
“You sound like my mama,” or “you remind me of my [x, y, z].”
They also say things like –
“I didn’t think somebody like you listened to our kind of music.” Or, “Oh, you know that song?”
“I thought you only shopped at Whole Foods”
And, “You know what this [what some people, not me, would call slang] word means?”
Well, yes, black child. Yes, I do.
Yes because I am black, like you.
That is why I take every opportunity to remind the students that I teach that I’m just like them.
It is why codeswitching is so important to me.
It’s why laughing, playing AND learning together are one in the same.
Yesterday I told an 8 year old that the song he was singing (so passionately as he wrote his acrostic poem about pride), was about selling drugs.
He literally said, “Oh my God, what?! How do you know that song? I thought you only knew like Gospel songs or something like that.”
It’s still hard for our kids to understand that the identities we embrace can be mutually inclusive!
Though I do listen to Gospel music (which the same child also sings allllll the time), I also like Andra Day, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. Maybe a little older than their taste of Migos, but, I can still keep up.
And in the same breath, I also know trigonometry and love alliterations – and neither of those things should be wow factors.
It’s disheartening that the idea of a black man or woman in many instances is the exception and not the given to the rule.
It’s our media, it’s our language and it’s our actions.
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Seeing black magic as exceptions to the rules written by the white forefathers of the constitution is another form of oppression.
I demand that we create spaces for our kids that show intelligence, ingenuity and creativity combined with Blackness as Dopeness!
Be Black and hardworking.
Be Black and inquisitive
Be Black and love to write.
Be Black and sing and dance and play from your heart.
Be Black and be the smartest person in the room.
Be Black . . . Be Proud.
Be Black, be proud and know that you, Black child, can be anything you want to be.