Stereotypes are often at the heart of equity issues and equal access of students and parents within the education system. Low income doesn’t equal low achieving, nor does low income automatically mean black.
Public schools judge Black boys based on their zip-code.
We have to stop treating children as if they are the problem and actually fix the problems that cause students to gain more failures than successes. The stigma, myths, and stereotypes placed on students because of socioeconomic and race factors into their level of achievement in school. This is why it’s not only important for Educators to change the stigma of student success from lower-income families and communities but school Districts should also drive this need for change.
I’m more frequently hearing non profits, school districts, and leaders refer to black, brown and mixed-race children as “Title I, low income, disadvantaged, misguided, troubled, or special cases” as opposed to simply being “students.” Parents and students have said they feel there’s a need to distinguish what “type” of student is being taught as opposed to simply embracing the students that enter the school doors.
Although, Black students aren’t the only students who face this issue, they often feel it the most especially if they are from a low income community, have a special need, learning disability, etc. Some common stereotypes of Black boys from lower income communities are:
- They come from fatherless homes.
- They have one incarcerated parent.
- They have severe behavior/discipline problems.
- They have low academic achievement.
Black boys most often experience being stereotyped in general education classrooms. The assumptions about Black boys, as well as their parents, are reflected in how faculty and staff engage with them. The challenge with stereotypes is that educators often target entire groups of people, categorizing them based on the effects of epidemics.
“I’m not a success story because I’m black, or where I come from, I’m a success story because I worked hard to obtain success!”
I hear this from a lot of Black boys who have to fight to prove they aren’t a bad student. Black boys often share stories about the lack of support from their teachers. Several of my students have told me through surveys and written assignments that they have had teachers tell them that they hood and won’t even make it to graduation. It seems like that’s something we only read in stories or episodes of scared straight programming from Black boys caught in the school to prison pipeline.
We can’t be too busy trying to save Black boys that we lose them from pushing negative stereotypes on them.
Hearing the voices of students about the challenges and stereotypes they face in school was refreshing. I was proud of how the students were able to articulate the issues and point out how they plan to change these stereotypes. Whether through music, art, education, leadership and furthering their academic careers, these students displayed hope for the future in dispelling the ugly myths and stereotypes of people based on their socioeconomic status or race in education.
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.