How Can You Teach Black Children and be Afraid of Black Parents?

It’s a simple question I ask many white and even some black colleagues. I don’t get it. I just do not get it. You tell the story about how you want to educate black children, but you take issue with Black parents. I hear some of these educators complain about the parents and how they come off or the way they talk. Then they look at me like I am supposed to deal with the parent for them.

I find myself frustrated that so many teachers want admiration and praise for educating black children but won’t even have a conversation with black parents. This isn’t just white teachers I see it from some black teachers as well. I tell new, young teachers all the time that when you teach you not only form a relationship with the child but also with the parents of the child. You don’t get any extra recognition for educating black children. They do not give you a little extra on your paycheck for teaching black children. 

Some teachers are afraid to speak to all types of black parents. You have your so-called ghetto, uneducated black parents. Yes, they may be a little loud and do not always use proper English or you may think they come off a little aggressive. Teachers are afraid of those black parents. They feel threatened because when they talk and get excited, their voice raises a level, or they use their hands a little more for expression. I had a parent reach out to me about wanting to meet with her child’s teacher. I went to the teacher and asked the teacher to set up the meeting. The teacher responded and said, will you be in the meeting. I told her I didn’t plan on being in the meeting and she replied, “I don’t feel comfortable meeting with this parent alone.” Confused about the statement, I pushed for more. Her response was she noticed the way the parent spoke to teachers last year. 

You want to teach black children, but you’re afraid to talk to black parents. 

Then you have a second type of black family; the one I call the most dangerous. The educated Black family. Indy Education blogger Shawnta Barnes tweeted how one of her son’s teachers was afraid to meet with her and her husband alone. The teacher misdiagnosed her son’s reading level. Now, because Shawnta and her husband are educated, this made the teacher fearful and concerned. The black parents who are educated will either push back or ask clarifying questions about the things that will make some teachers worry. Educated black people concern the masses because of how powerful we are when we know what’s up. 

Too often, parents are assigned the blame when children underperform in school. I believe parent involvement does impact student achievement. Teacher lounges are full of teachers who talk about how parents do not show up for things. They never talk about how they are afraid to talk to black parents when they do show up. In what world can someone spend 8 hours a day, five days a week with a child and not be able to have a 10-minute conversation with that child’s parent? 

To my black parents out there struggling to get a conversation with their child’s teacher, don’t give up. Press the issue and force the conversation. As long as you respect that teacher, they can not deny you the right to speak about your child. When you do have the conversation, don’t be afraid to push back or ask questions. 

To my teachers, afraid of talking to black parents, get over yourself. Be thankful the parent wants to engage with you. Be thankful the parent is available and answers the phone or email. There are many teachers out there begging and pleading for this relationship with their child’s parent, and you have it on a silver platter in front of you. If you don’t want to have conversations with black parents, you should not and cannot teach black children. 

Schools need more black parents, regardless of their socioeconomics to be warriors and advocates for their child’s education. Sometimes schools and teachers don’t always operate in the best interest of Black children. Engaged, vigilant parents must be the first and last line of defense to ensure their child gets what they need to succeed. 

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