By Giovanni Zaburoni
If you’ve ever been a minority working in an all-white environment, you know there are a number of obstacles you have to overcome. The sometimes subtle, but often times overt, comments and actions from your peers may make you feel as though they lack respect for your ideas, perspectives, and hard work. Your white counterparts will find faults in the smallest things you do, but when other white employees make big mistakes, it’s okay because mistakes happen.
This is not a luxury black employees when they are surrounded by all white co-workers. The education field can be even tougher. Nationwide, 11 percent of school principals are black and only 20 percent of school administrators are people of color, and 82 percent of the teaching workforce is white.
Think Progress wrote about a scenario that is all too common at schools across the country. The scenario focuses on a black principal who has been confronted by white parents about something that is out of her control.
“In a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in northwest D.C., a parent attending a school meeting is angry that her child doesn’t have enough time to play at recess. She berates the school principal, a black woman nearly a foot shorter than she is in front of the other parents, pointing a finger no more than two inches away from her face and shouting, ‘How do you expect to keep your job?’ The principal has been at her new job for no more than five weeks, and recess time is unfortunately out of her control due to academic requirements for other parts of the school schedule and other factors. As more parents at the meeting demand answers about recess, the principal eventually tears up. She asks the parents, the overwhelming majority of whom are white, to please trust her.”
School principals and teachers have complained about white teachers undermining their authority or micromanaging their work. If there are any issues, white parents blame it on the black administrator in charge and lack any trust in his/her abilities. Principals of color have recently filed lawsuits “alleging discrimination against school districts for giving them harsher penalties for certain behavior than white staff members, or for holding them more accountable for problems at the school due to their race,” according to Think Progress. White parents expect for the principal of color and the schools they manage to cater to their needs.
Think Progress listed a few ways to change how white parents and teachers deal with black principals:
“Schools should hold discussions about the assumptions people hold about each other before the school year starts, including everyone, parents, teachers, and students and how to be more respectful of one another. And there should be some training for principals of color to prepare them for some of the unfair challenges they will face. Cultural competency shouldn’t only be geared toward teachers’ relationship with students, but should instead focus broadly on the entire parent community. Community liaisons can help foster better conversations between parents and principals, so that principals don’t have to point out themselves when a parent’s tone is disrespectful.”
Source: Think Progress