The Black Lives Matter movement has been getting ample media attention due to widespread outrage over police brutality against Black Americans. These circumstances and events have brought awareness to another issue: systemic racism in education. Black students face many disparities in the United States. Behind the scenes lies systemic racism. Systemic racism resides deeply rooted and embedded in everyday life, impacting Black students.
Three Black high school students in the Livermore School District discussed the inequalities. The common theme that they pointed out is the lack of Black representation in the teaching staff and administration in Livermore schools. One of the students mentioned that they never had a Black teacher, and the other two students noted that they only had one Black teacher thus far in their academic career. The students agreed that they also would like to learn much more about Black history in school.
According to ABC News, Black students are nearly four times more likely to be suspended from school than White students, and nearly twice as likely to be expelled from school. Only ten percent of public school principals are Black, compared to eighty percent of principals who are White. Black male teachers make up only two percent of the teaching workforce. Livermore High School Vice Principal Roxana Mohammed said, “I do see a lack – a huge lack – of not only Black teachers but people of color.”
Without proper racial representation in the school system, Black students often do not feel valued and acknowledged. Livermore High student Ariana Finley says, “I want to learn about Black inventors, activists, and women who have paved the way.” According to AP News, there is no national curriculum or set of standards for teaching Black history in America. Only a small number of states do, including Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, and New York.
Granada High student Nubia Pokam (10) said, “All of the history we are taught is white-washed, therefore the extent of Black history students are taught is slavery.”
According to an AP News report, some experts and educators believe Black history lessons focus too much on violence and suffering instead of the systemic aspects of racism and white supremacy, while others say the past has been sanitized.
Ahrianna Peters (11), another Livermore High student comments, “ I feel as if schools can do better with making people of color feel included.“
According to a report by The NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, more than eight of every ten books that students see in class from preschool to eighth grade are written by white authors.
An article posted on Edutopia.com, encourages teaching Black history in culturally responsive ways, and that students should be introduced to texts from Black authors that discuss Black experiences, Black perspectives, and Black accomplishments.
The Lawrence Livermore National Lab African American Leadership Forum (ABLE), is a positive piece of hope and change at LHS. Mohammed played a role in bringing this outreach to Black students.
Mohammed said, “I wanted African American students to see successful people who looked like them. To get them connected and networking with people in the community.” ABLE provides a safe space for Black students to discuss issues they face on a local and national level. It is a place where Black students can feel heard.