Did you know that education is dominated by women? Especially in elementary schools?
Given all the tragic events that are happening in our country, learning how to empower black males is more important than ever.
I’ve been an educator for 12 years and I’ve worked in Title I schools for many of those years.
My heart for empowering black males begins with my own family. I am the oldest of 4 children, and my three younger siblings are black males.
They are all bright, competent, and friendly. I’ve witnessed their struggles in the education system and when I became a school counselor, I vowed to be an advocate for all children, but especially for children who were at a disadvantage (because of their race, socioeconomic status, home life situations, or anything else that presented itself as a barrier to their success).
I remember my mom telling us a story about a teacher that had called home and spoken to my dad. She later called my mom and told her that she had spoken to some man at our house and inquired about the man.
My mom informed the teacher that the man she spoke of was her husband and my brother’s father. The teacher was silent and obviously embarrassed. Her bias about black families and specifically black males had been exposed.
I’ve heard some people say that Black people talk about race too much. And that if we stopped focusing on it, everyone would be able to move on.
The unfortunate thing about that statement is that we don’t address our biases, we cannot move forward to true equality.
This is so important for everyone, especially educators to recognize. Here are 5 ways you can empower Black males in your classroom:
Provide Racial Mirrors
The easiest way to do this is by providing books, posters, and visual representations of Black males in your classroom. When you have the opportunity to have guest speakers, invite Black males.
Even if you are a virtual educator, providing a racial mirror is possible. If you are arranging guest speakers to talk to your class about a particular subject, seek out Black males.
It is so important for the boys in your class to fight against the prewritten narrative/stereotype that all Black males are thugs, father multiple children by multiple women, and are uneducated.
As an educator, it is your job to advocate for all of your students. If you notice discrimination happening in your school, it is your job to advocate for your students!
Discrimination can also take place by sympathy instead of empathy. Black boys are often seen as less capable. I’ve heard educators say, “His home life isn’t great, so I don’t push him that hard.”
Giving your Black boys “a break” and not pushing them to exceed expectations is hurting, not helping. When they grow up to be Black men, no one will be issuing them a break, so it’s important to push them to excel, regardless of their home life situation.
Open Discussions about Body Norms
Having conversations about self-esteem and positive body confidence is a subject that people often assume is solely for girls.
Boys have moments of insecurity too. Being the smallest boy (or largest) in a class or grade level often makes a boy an easy target.
Boys feel insecure about wearing glasses/braces, being the tallest, acne….all the things that girls often speak openly about.
You cannot control how others perceive your students, but you can empower them through affirming statements like:
You are worthy.
You can do hard things.
I am capable of overcoming.
Life is tough, but so am I.
Feel free to add your own affirmations to the list!
Empower Black Males by Practicing Cultural Competence
This one is probably the hardest because it requires a bit of self-reflection. And self-reflection doesn’t always feel good because it can expose our flaws.
Many school are not equipped to meet the needs of their diverse student bodies, but that doesn’t mean that your classroom has to follow the status quo.
Having a poster or two with someone non-white on the classroom wall isn’t enough. Diversity simply means recognizing the positive differences in the world around you.
Being an educator comes with massive responsiblity.
Creating an inviting classroom environment (whether face to face or virtual) is an opportunity to empower ALL students, especially black males.