“I didn’t come here to teach those kinds of kids.”
It’s alarming to think that adults charged with helping students of color succeed in school would hold such thoughts, much less say it aloud. But the fact is that many of us as educators have heard this and worse from some of our colleagues.
This comment surfaced during a recent training titled “Undoing Racism,” where we discussed the increasing diversity of suburban districts around Indianapolis, where I live.
I used to teach at an urban charter school. Fortunately, every single person there actively chose to serve a predominantly minority population. And we all believed in our students’ ability, or at least we said we did. Nonetheless, most of us were White, especially the school’s leaders.
Nowhere in my teacher training did we talk about the dangers of implicit bias, despite all the discussions of race, equity, diversity and inclusion. That conversation came almost two years into my stint as a teacher. By then, who knows how much damage I might have done, however unconscious it was.
New York City is finding out the hard way how entrenched White supremacy remains and how fragile White people seem to be when confronted with our societal failings. After New York implemented racial bias training and tried to fast-track it, some White educators got upset and reportedly felt uncomfortable—which the right-wing media quickly seized on and tried to derail the whole thing.
Others felt it didn’t go far enough, and many educators see the value of supporting teachers in confronting their own bias. Regardless, it should concern every one of us that the discomfort of White adults should ever take priority over the lives and learning of Black and Brown students.
Michael Prihoda is a former middle school English teacher who now works in communications and development for The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education nonprofit. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing from Taylor University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Marian University.