Atlanta is often referred to as being the home of gay social life in the South. However, gay Black boys still go through a public lynching every day at schools across Georgia. Unfortunately the sexual orientation of Black boys is a still barrier in schools that inflicts a lot of self-esteem and social acceptance issues.
Black boys dealing with self discovery and sexuality don’t have advocates in schools.
Jamel Myles, a 9-year-old boy, committed suicide at the beginning of this school year. CNN reported that he had recently come out as gay to his mother, who believes that bullying was a factor in his death.
The first thing that comes to my mind is, what if he’d had an advocate at school?
I believe the lack of support for LGBTQ students in our schools is often due to the inability of educators to separate their bias.
Darnell Young was expelled from high school for bringing a stun gun to school. But dig a bit deeper, and it turns out he was openly gay at school, and his peers were allowed to torture him at school daily because of his sexual orientation.
There are Darnell’s in schools across the country. This kid had the courage to come out and be who he is while many other boys feel trapped.
There are many other Black boy struggling with their sexual identify who don’t have the courage or safe spaces to be who they are.
Even as we teach and talk about diversity in our schools, too often we fail to demonstrate what it looks like to accept cultural differences.
Teachers play a major role in the stereotypes and prejudices portrayed upon LGBTQ students. Black boys do tend to have it harder. Criticism about masculinity is very hard especially during the middle school years.
I’ve seen the bias of teachers against black boys who may be struggling with identifying or accepting their sexuality. I’ve seen bias based simply on a boy not displaying typically “masculine” mannerisms.
Similarly, I see how Black boys who go into sports are always embraced and encouraged, while those who are interested in creative arts are often shunned.
We don’t make room for the boys who don’t fit the conservative expectations of masculinity.
Black Male Educators Can Help Create a Safe Space
Depression is real for Black boys and they need safe spaces too. Over the last three years, the majority of the Black boys I have supported, coached or mentored have experienced some type of trauma or has considered suicide. Many of them battled with their sexual identity.
The U.S. National Library Medicine reports that children are coming out at much younger ages regarding their sexuality. It isn’t new for children to deal with sexuality but it is different now due to the technology era.
We know that for students of color who also identify as LGBTQ, the likelihood of considering suicide is even higher. Suicide rates of Black boys have double within the last two decades. In the Black community suicide was a taboo topic. Now with the increase of Black boys in and out of the prison systems or who have experienced trauma suicide has become a scary reality.
Being intentional about how we prepare, recruit and retain Black male educators is key in creating safe spaces for Black boys.
As more Black men enter the profession, we will necessarily see more diversity in kind of role models these Black teachers can be. Some will be straight, some will be gay. Some will be coaches, some will be art and poetry teachers. It’s important that we look at the cultures we’re creating in schools that impact the acceptance for various sexual identity preferences.
Black boys need schools that accept cultural, social and spiritual differences as a norm and not an exception. In this type of atmosphere Black boys can be who they are as opposed to being the stereotypes society projects onto them.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.