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Why Your Black Teacher Friends Are Not Doing OK

Teaching is a tough profession as it is, but factor in being a young Black female teacher and you become privy to an even tougher professional world. From microaggressions to overt racism and bullying, education, like most professions, can be a hostile environment for Black teachers and students alike. With nearly 86% of all teachers in state-funded schools in England being White British in 2019, it is easy to feel this hostility even more with the lack of representation of BAME teachers, making some of us quite lonely as our colleagues – the people we spend most of our days with – do not share or understand our culture making the most normal interactions quite uncomfortable. For example, heating your food in the microwave in the humanities office and having your white, male colleague remark, “Well that stinks!” Erm, smells like seasoning to me, James…

And as a Black female teacher, these statistics are a clear representation of my teaching experience having always been one of few Black teachers even when the student body has been predominantly non-white and ethnically diverse. Whilst I don’t hate the profession, I do find it quite problematic on a daily basis. Education is merely a microcosm for wider society in my opinion, mirroring the same hierarchies and discourses which perpetuate issues of “race” and racism. As a result, policing one’s actions, mannerisms and gestures when walking down the corridor and into the classroom becomes somewhat of a norm while thinking before you speak, purely to avoid embodying the “angry Black woman” caricature, is also a pretty normal act. For what we intend to say is not necessarily wrong or rude, because our sheer audacity to be Black women, right, and articulate this in an assertive, yet professional, manner that really shakes the table.