It appears that while some teachers are exposing their racism in front of their students others try to be sly with it. According to a study published in Urban Education, white teachers often speak in racially coded ways, influenced by stereotypes, when talking about or dealing with Black students. The outcome of their behavior is inevitably harmful.
John Hopkins Assistant Professor Olivia Marcucci and Washington University (St. Louis) Associate Professor Rowhea Elmesky based their research on a study from 2015 examining why white teachers couldn’t form positive relationships with their Black students. The answer, as you could’ve guessed, was racial bias. Though, while racism is being questioned for its very existence, studies like these help prove its negative impact with evidence.
First, the study noted Black students make up 97 percent of disciplinary referrals despite making up only 8 percent of the student population of the school they examined. On the other hand, white students only made up one percent of referrals.
The disparity in treatment across the student population may stem from something Marcucci and Elmesky called racially coded stereotypes - kind of like an exclusive teacher lingo but ... racist.
Read more about the study from The Conversation:
In a different example, two white teachers began talking about how parents at their school didn’t care about their children. At one point, they pretended to be parents, with one of the teachers even making a joke that one of the parents completely forgot they even had a child:
Teacher 1: Yeah, just somebody saying, ‘Hey, you know you have a baby, right?’ Teacher 2: I do? Teacher 1: Yeah. Teacher 2: Oh. Teacher 1: Oh, wooord.
Nothing about this interaction is racially explicit. But the teacher’s joke invokes a stereotype of Black parents as disengaged from their children’s lives by using a stereotypical African American vernacular – “wooord.” When white teachers at a predominantly Black school make statements like these, they are upholding the stereotype that Black parents lack concern for their children – even if that is not the teachers’ intention.
Certainly this would create a gap between students and their teachers. Instead, the study found it brings those teachers closer together, as they bond over the use of anti-Black language.
Now, it does sound like sending a Black kid to school with majority teachers is a hopeless plan if you want to shield them from the impacts of racism. However, there is some hope. The study found that restorative justice practices have changed the course of biased discipline practices at the school examined in the report.
It seems a lot of schools could learn from this one example of how to make reforms in their students’ academic experience.