- Reflection on 8 Black Hands Podcast: Dr. Charles Cole III Speaks on All Things Education - May 30, 2023
- From Tennessee to Your Classroom, Amplify Student Voices - April 11, 2023
- Native American Deaf History is American Deaf History - April 11, 2023
- Check Your Bias and Do the Work: What Teachers Can Learn from Angel Reese - April 6, 2023
- What COVID Could Have Taught Us - March 14, 2023
- You Don't Have to Watch the Tyre Nichols Video, But Be Ready to Talk About It - January 30, 2023
- Moving Beyond Diversity to Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging: Lessons from a Sunday Sermon - January 24, 2023
- Teachers Need Trauma-Informed Practices Too - January 5, 2023
- Trevor Noah's Farewell Speech Was an Ode to Black Women in Education - December 22, 2022
- Our Son's Paraprofessional Changed Our Lives. Paraprofessionals Deserve Higher Pay. - December 9, 2022
Have you signed up for The Educator's Room Newsletter? Click here and support independent journalism!
As a former high school basketball player, and perhaps more importantly, as a Black woman, I found myself triggered by the “outrage” over Angel Reese’s end-of-the-game gesture that was deemed by some as a “classless taunt.” It brought me back to all that comes with the common practice of being labeled an “Angry Black Woman.” It brought me back to all of the trauma of being Black in America and having to deal with constant bias, prejudice, and stereotypes. It brought me back to the blatant “double standard” of the same tone, gestures, words, or even facial expressions that are perceived negatively depending on who delivers them.
Unwilling Participants, Unequal Treatment, Unnecessary Drama
Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark are two incredible basketball players who have been brought into the never-ending controversy America seems unable to shake. And as NPR reported, “Both players have used the same gesture at this year’s March Madness: Clark waved a hand in front of her face two games earlier when Iowa beat Louisville to enter the Final Four.” Aggressive versus competitive. Dramatic versus emotional. Stubborn versus headstrong. Arrogance versus confidence. Bias versus preference. Bad versus good, applauded versus condemned, different and yet the same. The “unfair criticism” Angel Reese has been subject to is a narrative we have heard all too often. Have we not gotten tired of the same old story that continually attacks Black women? The facts surrounding the continual pushout of Black girls in schools are indisputable. This latest barrage of criticism is very similar to how Black girls in schools are “disproportionately expelled, suspended, and arrested.” The disproportionate criticism Angela Reese received clearly indicates a larger systemic issue.Check Your Bias and Do the Work: What Teachers Can Learn from Angel Reese Join our conversation.
Attacks on Black Women Have a Long History
In the prophetic words of Malcolm X, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” Since this was said in 1962, how much has truly changed? How can condemning a simple gesture - the same one done by a White athlete - committed by a Black athlete and calling that same Black star a “f-cking idiot,” not be seen as an attack on Black women everywhere? Further, many are failing to discuss the clear misogyny towards women with little to no mention of constant instances of unsportsmanlike conduct that pervades men’s sports. The “unequal treatment [of] Black female athletes” is rampant in American sports. This is directly due to bias, prejudices, and stereotypes inflicted on Black women. The data on how these factors play into how Black girls are treated in the school system are a direct result of practices that make Black girls “more likely” to be treated harsher than their non-Black counterparts.
The Power of Prejudice and Stereotypes
“I’m too hood, I’m too ghetto. Y’all told me that all year. But when other people do it, y’all don’t say nothing. So this is for the girls that look like me.” (Angela Reese Tweet)
If we truly listen to Angel Reese’s words and truly do the real work of analyzing our own internal bias, there should be no question as to why this latest “controversy” has taken over the headlines. We can no longer willfully ignore the clear “isms” that have again reared their ugly heads. We can no longer ignore the motivation behind the “internet warriors” who speak up for what they believe is right, no matter how wrong they are proven to be. We can no longer defend the obvious biases of those who refuse to take back their criticism, even when Caitlin Clark herself defended the alleged wrongdoing and deemed it part of the competitive spirit. When the alleged “victim” speaks out in defense of the alleged “wrongdoer,” why do people still hold fast to their false narratives?
I remember a non-Black student asking to speak to me after class. She told me that it bothered her so much that a teacher seemed to continually single out Black students, specifically Black girls, for having their cell phones out. She admitted to having her cell phone out quite often but never seemed to garner the same attention or scrutiny. This conversation turned into a discussion about “attitudes” that my student did not think were that big of a deal and “dress code” violations that were enforced on Black girls but not others. If my high school student can see this clear “double standard,” what is keeping adults from doing the same? Do the work, people. Check yourself.
Check Your Bias, Right Your Wrongs
“People would rather live with their unchecked biases than look themselves in the mirror and admit they harbor harmful thoughts,” Prince R. James, writing on USA Today’s “For the Win” blog, said, “which is sad and the type of behavior that allows racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and so forth and so on to exist.”
And as for Jill Biden’s “invitation” to the second-place team in a championship game? Pouring salt in the wound of Black women everywhere while simultaneously deepening the traumas of the historic racism America has perpetrated on African Americans in this country since its inception? Dr. Biden, you might want to consider making a much stronger statement and admitting to the huge insult your “suggestion” was instead of “walking back” the mistake. America has a bad habit of “walking back” major missteps instead of righting its wrongs. As an educator, the “misstep” is even more glaring considering the often harsher judgment of Black girls in this broken system of education. In education, we have to do more than simply “walk back” our wrongs when it comes to how we treat Black students. We need to own up to and face our mistakes head-on.
There's Work for All of Us
As I ask others to do the internal work, I must do a mirror check and do the same. As a Black woman in education, I would never assume that I am not ignorant of my own internal bias. While I have to constantly make sure that my “actions or reactions” are not deemed as “angry,” I have to also make sure that I am looking at my students through the same unbiased lens I am asking of others: recognize the humanity in all of us, treat people as individuals, and be consistent in rules, regulations, and consequences for similar behaviors in my classroom. I have to check my bias at the door, learn from my own experiences of being pre-judged or misjudged, put myself in the shoes of my students, and see my students for who they truly are. They are Angel Reese. They are Caitlin Clark. They are me.
Editor's Note: If you enjoyed this article, please become a Patreon supporter by clicking here.
Leave a Reply