Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

"Color Does Not Equal Consciousness": Educators of Color Learning to Enact a Sociopolitical Consciousness

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

"Color Does Not Equal Consciousness": Educators of Color Learning to Enact a Sociopolitical Consciousness

Article excerpt

Introduction

Historically, educators of color have played an integral role in orienting students to issues of social injustice and the potential for education to ameliorate inequitable conditions for people of color (Farinde, Allen, & Lewis, 2016; Siddle Walker, 2001). These educators often viewed schooling as a political process and understood their work as part of a broader commitment to social transformation (Berta-Avila, 2004; Martinez, 2017; Tillman, 2004). Not only are educators of color more likely to subvert the dominant culture of schooling, but they also often make curricular and pedagogical choices that seek to foster critical thinking that can lead to social change (Darder, 1995; Dingus, 2006). By dominant culture of schooling, we mean the governing structure of education in schools throughout the United States, which directly reflects Eurocentric norms and reproduces power differentials, social stratifications, and racial inequities (Delpit, 2012). Traditionally, this structure has had a negative influence on the schooling experiences of students of color, and contemporary practices within schools are inextricably linked to these historical roots.

In the current social and educational climate of the United States, there remains a need for educators of color to disrupt the potentially harmful social realities their students of color confront and the impact of those realities on schooling experiences. Such realities include Black and Latino male students being more likely than their peers to be suspended (Schott Foundation for Public Education, 2015), disproportionately represented in special education (Artiles, 2011), and less likely to be considered college ready when they graduate from high school (Palmer & Young, 2009). In 2017, the American College Test (ACT) Report on College and Career Readiness indicated that only 11% of Black students and 23% of Latinx students met three or more college readiness benchmarks. These benchmarks are determined by scores on English, reading, math, and science tests, and performance for Black and Latino students has remained moderately stable since 2012. In New York, the State Department of Education (DOE) reported that only 18% to 21% of their Black and Latino male students with high school diplomas were deemed "college and career ready" as they left high school (Expanded Success Initiative, 2012). This likely results in students who are eligible to begin postsecondary education or employment without expected, requisite academic knowledge and/or skills. Realizing the need to redress these conditions in New York City (NYC), the city established the Young Men's Initiative (2017) with goals that include "addressing] increasing disparities among Black and Latino men between the ages of 16 and 24 in education, employment, health and justice." By situating present educational outcomes for Black and Latino male students within historical structures of schooling, we highlight the continued need for educators of color to engage their work as an intentional justice project with broad societal implications.

As Black women researchers, public school teachers, and teacher educators, we have witnessed how schools serving predominantly Black and Latinx students can become toxic environments in which these students struggle to thrive. Too many of the K-12 students we taught, particularly Black and Latino male students in NYC, were pushed out of school before earning a high school diploma, and some who did graduate struggled to surmount barriers created by under-preparedness and miseducation (see Woodson, 2008). Those who persisted were often encouraged by educators of color who supported them socially, emotionally, and academically despite structural barriers that could have otherwise deterred their progress (Knight-Manuel et al., 2016). Our experiences educating pre- and inservice teachers in NYC, more precisely the challenges we have faced in so doing, further situate our personal and intellectual commitments to preparing educators to improve educational outcomes and experiences for Black and Latino males. …

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