There’s a proverb which says “It take a village to raise a child.” As Black, Christian parents, we do not have the luxury of filling our village with people who look like us, have the same experiences, and share our spiritual beliefs. Yes, we have friends, family, and our church family who take up a majority of the slots. However, the teachers and administrators at our children’s schools are also part of our village, whether we like it or not. Anyone who has consistent contact with our children and plays a role in their development becomes an automatic member.
With that being said, we had to address a behavioral issue raised by our son’s 4th grade teacher with about two weeks left in the school year (see my husband’s article in the June 20 Chicago Defender). Our son’s teacher brought it to our attention for the purpose of us addressing it at home, which we did. However, my husband and I thought it was necessary to have a meeting with the teacher to explain the context from our son’s point of view and to understand her perception of our son. Some may say why even bother meeting with the teacher since he’s had a good academic year, you’ve addressed the behavior with him, and school is almost over. The reason: labels. Our Black boys can get negatively labeled very early in life, which can follow them throughout their academic career. Those labels, which are born out of someone’s perception, can influence what classes he’s put into, the expectations that others have of him, and even how he views himself.
As my husband stated in Black Boy Bias Part I, our son was indeed complaining out loud and showing his distaste of activities through his body language. This read as disrespect to the teacher and rightfully so. This behavior wouldn’t fly in our presence either. I’ve seen similar behavior in his non-Black counterparts at school. Even in the discussion with his teacher, we discovered that in one instance she wasn’t sure if our son was even the culprit because he was around a group of students who were being disrespectful. But she singled him out. I can’t help but think that part of the reason she singled him out is because he is the only Black person in his class.
In the teacher conference, we were open and honest about our discussions with our son regarding his behavior AND regarding prejudice. It’s important for Black parents to have “the talk” with our kids, but we also need to have it with the parts of our village that don’t look like us. When we explained to her that this could be a situation of unconscious bias, she understood our position. Then she shared her experience upon entering this school district and how she was disturbed by the lack of diversity in the student body compared to her previous school. I appreciated the fact that she showed her color-awareness instead of preaching about her color-blindness. I need our village to be aware and not blind to what our Black children will face in this world.
My concerns of labeling were addressed in the meeting. The teachers think highly of him and enjoy having him in class. There was nothing in his report card about any behavioral issues. His final grades were exceptional. I’m satisfied with the outcome and I’m glad we addressed the topic of unconscious bias with his teacher. It’s important to discuss our own experiences with bias and not allow those feelings to fester in darkness. The village becomes that much stronger when the truth of our experiences and feelings are brought into the light.
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” – 1 John 1:6-7
Reggie and Quiana Kee have known each other for over 20 years and were married in 2004. They were licensed to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in 2015 at the Kingdom Advancement Center in Elgin, Ill., where they currently reside. They have two children and are the co-founders of Ink Well Spoken and Manu Forti Ministries, which serve as the marketplace and faith-based programs for their motivational speaking initiatives.