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Why Black Teachers Matter

Why Schools Need More Teachers of Color—for White Students

In public schools, where roughly 90 percent of the country’s children are enrolled, the lessons students learn are often skewed because of who is delivering the instruction and what kind of curricula and learning materials that instruction entails. Not only is the vast majority of the country’s teaching force White, but Eurocentric attitudes also tend to filter into classrooms. Some scholars, including the Temple University African American studies professor Ama Mazama, even attribute the notable rise in homeschooling among Black families in part to the predominance of Eurocentric school curricula and teacher perspectives. American children’s literature is also often limited to White characters and narratives.

Anecdotal and empirical evidence suggests that teachers of color can help disrupt what are often one-sided portrayals of the world and offer invaluable insight to students from different backgrounds. After all, while Millennials see themselves as—and are widely believed to be—the most tolerant generation in American history, “beneath the facade of a colorblind generation remains a deep underclass,” wrote the Demos researcher Sean McElwee in an Al Jazeera op-ed earlier this year. “Millennials are not as racially progressive as the narrative suggests.” One study in 2007 found that youth aged 10 through 19 had just as much “implicit racial bias” as older generations did—and compared to some age groups, even more of it.

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