Black Male Teachers and the Shaming White Gaze

Although many people situated in the postmodern epoch posit that the election of President Obama signaled the transition of the nation to a “post-racial America,” the brutal legacies of White supremacy and Jim Crow persist across the nation.  In American K – higher education institutions, these legacies might be the most transparent and damaging.  Throughout the educational pipeline across the country, there exists a pervasive disregard for hiring a diverse faculty.  Although American schools are increasingly serving diverse student populations, many White administrators are not making a conscious effort to hire minority faculty to reflect this progressively burgeoning diversity.

Black male teachers are endangered species.  A dismal number of Black male teachers serve in K – higher education institutions.  The reality is the majority of Black male teacher candidates will have to be hired by White people, especially White men.  An extensive body of empirical and scholarly literature has documented the discrimination and racism minority applicants face during the hiring process.  More attention, however, needs to be devoted to the retention of Black male teachers.

Many White administrators employ a shaming gaze to attempt to intimidate Black male teachers and make them feel inferior.  Many White administrators and others will try to pretend that this gaze does not exist and will manufacture a baffled countenance about this gaze.  They will assert that one is making a desperate effort to use the “race card” in his favor to achieve his desired outcome(s).  Although many Whites suggest that the idea of a shaming white gaze, as is characterized in this piece, victimizes them by calling into question every motive they have for looking at a Black male, we need to look only to early American history and Jim Crow America to gain a deep understanding of how real, detrimental, and important the shaming White gaze is to Black people.

Black male teachers are not divorced from reality: most of their paychecks are signed by White male administrators.  When White administrators try to communicate shameful messages to Black male teachers through their mean-spirited gaze, Black male teachers realize their careers are not safe.  Many Black male teachers, therefore, begin to internalize racial self-loathing and self-hatred, considering they feel powerless against a power structure that does not favor them.  These Black male teachers become docile bodies easily exploited by many White administrators who love nothing more than to show them they determine how long they will be employed and the conditions of their employment.

For those Black male teachers who are unwilling to be docile bodies easily exploited by those White administrators wishing to unfairly treat them, they, unfortunately, become tangible causalities of the shaming gaze.  It is through Black male teachers who are unwilling to just be “good Negroes” that we have a chance to witness the brutal motives explicit in the shaming gaze.  The shaming White gaze articulates to Black male teachers that they are not wanted as educators and every effort will be made to see that they are terminated.

The shaming White gaze inevitably results in discriminatory actions.  In higher education institutions, many Black male teachers’ academic work gets unfairly critiqued and viewed with contempt, especially since many White administrators don’t understand it and don’t have a desire to invest time in attempting to understand it.  In K-12 institutions, the shaming White gaze results in Black male teachers being unfairly judged as grossly unprofessional and defiant.

Many White administrators are going to have to learn that having a diverse faculty is not about “being politically correct”—having a diverse faculty ameliorates academic achievement.  When students are able to benefit from a diverse faculty, they are able to learn from the sundry talents, experiences, backgrounds, teaching styles, and etc. a diverse faculty offers.

At the local level, we have to place more pressure on local leadership to hire more Black male teachers and to create a more diverse faculty in general.  As you advocate for the hiring of more Black male teachers, make sure you include support for the retention of extant Black male teachers.  We must demand our local leaders to support the hiring, promoting, and retention of Black male teachers.

Black male teachers are endangered species.  Let’s fight against this national crisis that must be fought first at the local level!  Here is evidence that when we fight against efforts to not hire, support, and retain Black male teachers at the local level, we will be successful:  http://cordeledispatch.com/local/x1710453535/Citizens-want-teacher-back-next-year.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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8 comments

  1. I feel like if we can not legally ask applicants to divulge their race, which I have filled out many apps with the I PREFER NOT TO ANSWER line, then why does the question of race optional or not, appear on the applications? As a young black man myself, I have heard many friends say that they do not answer it because they feel they will be immediately judged based upon answering Black or African American. I proudly choose it. I figure it’s a take me or leave me kind of thing. I am qualified if I am obviously applying and if they are looking for someone to do the job as they have posted, then they will choose me. If not, then whatever. I know this response isn’t directly related to your article Mr. Maurice, but I followed the link over to the other website. I saw there the Superintendent Steve Smith said he could not legally ask ask applicants to divulge their race on the applications.

    1. An employer can make it optional to include one’s race on an application. For those employers who do not choose to include race on an application, race is not important to them, meaning they are not interested in achieving diverse organizations. Yes, we should not run away from our race when that option is included on an application. I’m proud to be a Black man and each time I have an opportunity to express that pride I do so. Thank you very much for reading and for your response!

    1. Lol! What solutions are you able to offer us to prevent us from being a “bunch of whining cry babies”? Don’t simply offer negative criticisms without providing potential solutions. Elevate the discourse — don’t diminish it.

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