This site is dedicated to the professional and academic work of Dr. Angela Dye.
About 10 years ago, I had a pleasant, but intense, debate with a friend about the unmet needs of black students. She was a fellow social studies teacher I met while teaching in Georgia (10 years earlier). She being from Florida and me being from Wisconsin, we had three regions (and 10 years) to explore the policies and pedagogies impacting black children. Although we both agreed that leadership (not teachers) was to blame, we could not agree on the role that race played in such leadership.
While I believed the problem resided in the absence of black leadership (please note the racial landscape of urban leadership 20 years ago in Wisconsin looked markedly different than it does today), she believed that black leadership would not be the solution. She had been in districts with black administrators and black principals all while black students were still outperformed by their white counterparts, and still struggling social-emotionally.
In the end, I believe we were both right. I think she was right to point out that black leadership alone would not give the black community the education we need. And I still believe I was right to continue to implicate race as critical to the problem… that black students need black leaders (and black teachers) to provide a cultural context to learning and schooling that allows for deep learning and growth.
Today, I now know more about the system of education and white supremacy in which it is grounded. I understand that leadership– regardless of race (because of policies and public expectations)– must capitulate to structures defining leadership. That, until those structures confront white supremacy, no leader — black or white– will be able to give the black community the education that we truly need.
It is now my belief that it is the local School Board (the real leader) that we should be monitoring and holding accountable. Simply hiring a qualified superintendent- yes, even a black one- won’t ensure our students receive their fair share as related to education. School boards need to have the capacity and commitment to ensure superintendents and school leaders are equitable– that, by through their leadership, black students (along with other students from disenfranchised communities) will belong, be kept safe, and will have access to high quality instruction.
In my next installment, I plan to write about five ways to tell when a school board is not committed to equity. Until that piece is finished, let me say this… we need to move beyond black facing as relating to leadership. We need to look at the structures (as protected by school boards) that govern these leaders and the ways they maintain (or not) the historical advantage of the racial elite.
In the end, race and leadership does matter. It just simply goes beyond a face.
Note: Black facing happens when a black person is put in position as a symbol of diversity all while upholding systems that center and sustain the racial elite.