August 9, 2015 Cambridge (Mass) #BlackLivesMatter Rally
As school is opening and the numbers of Black teachers continue to decline. Most students entering schools this September will not have a teacher of color. Please take some time to read this and think make this silent phenomenon known.
Thank you BLMCambridge for inviting me to speak. I appreciate the diversity of topics today. We are talking about jobs, economy, Education, LGBT- issues that directly affect people of color in Massachusetts and around the country. Though, I am a very international/ cross cultural, multilingual person, for the next four minutes I am going to use the word Black. Are you with me?
The Education of Black folks is in a state of despair, disarray and disgrace. Many of you are familiar with phrases such as “school to prison pipeline”, “Achievement Gap”, “Education is the civil rights issues of the era”, “high stake standardized assessments that adversely impact Black and Latinos.” However there is a nation-wide 60 year old issue that, except for Chicago and New Orleans hardly any one is addressing. It’s the issue of removing Black teachers in the Education arena through pseudo evaluations, downsizing, “school turn abounds”, charter schools, demotions, or forced retirements.
That phenomenon of removing Black teachers in the classrooms started in the South at the onset of 1954 -55 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. In a USA Today April 2004, entitled Thousands of black teachers lost jobs, Greg Toppo gave a historical perspective on the declining of Black teachers in the South. By 2015, the process of “structuring out” teachers of African descent has spread all over the country. In almost every state, one will find a number of tenured veteran black teachers who have been displaced, via demotions, dismissals or forced retirements or phony negative evaluations. Tenured Latino teachers are demoted, but they are not dismissed. WE NEED TO STOP THE REMOVAL OF BLACK TEACHERS FROM THE EDUCATION ARENA.
I don’t want to sound like a lecturer, but like the previous speaker, we have to provide some references.
On September 2012 around the time of the Chicago Teachers’ strike Reuters published an article by Stephanie Simon and James B. Kelleher that says “Today, just 19 percent of the teaching force in Chicago is African American, down from 45 percent in 1995, the union says; organizers fear that shift means fewer teachers have deep roots in and passion for the communities where they work. In other words as it is around the country many Black teachers who are close or part of the Black community are forced out. A former Chicago teacher and union activist posted in her Facebook page that Chicago lost about 6,000 Black teachers’ jobs in 3 years. There were 8,-9,000 Black teachers in 2010, in 2013 about 2,500.
On September 2014, The Root featured an article by Melinda Anderson called America’s Unspoken Education Issue: Black Kids Need Black Teachers, A new historical account is just the latest reminder that relying on white teachers to save black students has never been enough.
A lot had been published about the need for more teachers of color in the schools. However, the historical, the unjust context of educators of African descent, such as 7,000 Black teachers who lost their jobs in New Orleans after Katrina had not received enough coverage. Not too many had given a voice to this blatant injustice that a group of professionals had sustained.
According to Huff post May 2015 article by Eric Cooper and Philip Jackson, “An estimated 100,000 Black teachers were retired, fired, removed from or "structured out" of education in America since 1990.”
Now let’s talk about Massachusetts. Based on the Department of Ed’s (MADESE) website, in 13-14, there were 59,232.9 full time teachers in Massachusetts. Out of those 59,232 teachers, 1,488.0 were/are Black and 730.1 of them teach in Boston; 754.3 Asian teachers (199.1 teach in Boston); 1,421.2 Latino teachers- (325.3 Latinos) teach in Boston. If almost half of Black teachers teach in Boston, what are the chances of students from the other 350 cities in the Commonwealth to have a Black or a nonwhite teacher? We are sitting - in near MIT. You know the probabilities for a student to have a Black teacher if there are 757.9 Black educators to teach in 350 cities.
What have the bargaining units done to represent and protect these tenured professionals who have paid union dues for years ( 10, 15, 20, 25 years)? The sad part is - No one, even the Black leadership is saying anything about students not seeing a Black teacher in their school buildings, not alone in their classrooms. There are many school buildings in Massachusetts with school population of 50%, 70%, 80% students of color, or linguistics minority /majority students that have no Black teachers.
Analyzing these numbers, Is there a future for Black teachers in Massachusetts or in the Education field? One needs to envision the long term perception and impact of any student Black, White, or Asian, growing up not ever having a Black teacher, or any professional of African descent, during their formation years, i.e a Black nurse, a Black physician or any non-European professional. So if children and youth are not exposed to a diverse group of professionals, society will continue to produce more brutal and violent police officers and more Dylann Roofs. As children they were subconsciously raised to perceive nonwhite people as “not equal”, “less than”, “irrelevant” “ nothing”, therefore like black people, they can be killed.
Given such blatant injustice, please repeat after me:
We cheer! We lead! We know there is a need for Black teachers!
I believe that we will win, I believe we will win Educational freedom!
Back up, back up we want to Diversify Education!