We’ve all seen the videos. Some racist Karen gets all out of whack and calls the police in a fucking tizzy on an innocent Black human being for just about any ridiculous reason. We might watch these videos with wide eyes, wondering how the hell she has the nerve to be such a giant asshole. We might become enraged at the sheer injustice of this jackass puking up their privilege, ignorance, and casual white supremacy all over a Black American who never deserved to experience it in the first place. We might even pat ourselves on the back, deluded into believing that we aren’t a Karen, and we’ll never allow those around us, especially our kids, to be negatively impacted or influenced by one.
But we also might be forgetting one important piece of this puzzle.
Karens — and Kens — don’t just walk around neighborhoods with their cell phones suspiciously in hand and 911 on their speed dial. They also take up residence in our children’s schools among teachers and school officials. Parents who send their kids into educational institutions where racially biased staff members reside every single day are also unwittingly supporting a horrifying status quo where educator Karens unfairly call out Black children more than white kids, diminish the academic capabilities of Black students, and even treat Black youth with disdain, aggression, and distrust. And they do it right in front of our children.
There are educational Karens among us, parents. They need to stop being given free rein to teach and influence our kids. And it starts with us actually giving enough of a fuck about racism to begin really paying attention.
According to a new study published this year by the American Educational Research Journal, Black students not only face the harshest discipline in American schools, but they are also significantly passed over for gifted and talented programs. In fact, they are suspended 1.5 times more often than their white classmates, and white students are 1.7 times as likely to be chosen for gifted programs. This particular study is also groundbreaking because it is one that places the fault of these racial inequities largely on school districts, rather than other factors.
“We want to shine the light back on schools directly so they feel compelled to explain to us why these racial differences exist,” lead researcher Kenneth Shores, assistant professor of human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University, tells the Seattle Times.
Last year, another study discovered that Black middle school students were significantly less likely than their white classmates to receive verbal or written warnings from their teachers about behavioral problems, leaving them with less opportunities to become aware of and correct their own behavior, before more extreme measures were taken.
Researchers also found that Black boys were 95% less likely than their white male counterparts to receive verbal warnings directly from teachers, and Black students in general were 84% less likely to have multiple warnings directed to their parents. So in essence, Black students are not receiving direct communication from their very own teachers about their behavior at a point in the process when they need and deserve reminders to correct it, and then harshly and disproportionately punished if the behavior continues. This disturbing practice unduly places the responsibility of a Black child’s behavior entirely on their own young shoulders, while also taking the cake for being racist as fuck.
And then there’s the 2019 study led by Rutgers University associate professor Dan Battey that set out to determine racial disparities for Black children taught by adults in schools. Battey found that white teachers in majority-Black classrooms had more negative, hostile interactions with students regarding school behavior than the white teachers in majority-white classrooms or Black teachers in majority-Black classrooms.
While the study found that all teachers — regardless of their race — reprimanded students more than they praised them, it was the White teachers who were two to four times more likely to reprimand Black students for their behavior. White teachers of Black students were also more inclined to verbally humiliate Black students in front of the rest of the classroom, instead of taking the time and effort to talk to them privately.
This, as you would expect, directly impacts the academic performance quality of Black students. Those with white teachers who publicly berated them experienced a 16% decrease in their school achievements. On the flip side, Black teachers, who are more likely to praise a Black student’s abilities than white teachers, create an environment where their kids have higher chances of thriving academically.
Oh, and did I mention that as of 2018, 76% of all American public school teachers were female and 79% of public school teachers across the country were white?
This is obviously just the tip of a giant racist iceberg, and it is quite apparent that our country is driving a Titanic-style wedge between Black students’ abilities and the opportunities they deserve to learn and thrive with respect and care. What sucks even more is that when a Black child is verbally bashed in front of their peers by the white adult whose been entrusted to safely educate them, every single pair of young eyes in the room is watching.
Kids aren’t born hating themselves or each other. They are taught how to do that by our discriminatory societal standards, the delusion of white supremacy perpetuated in family and social systems, and the whitewashed education they receive. If we learned anything from the dumpster fire that was Barber Hills High School’s abhorrent reaction to 18-year old DeAndre Arnold’s dreadlocks, it’s that our country’s Black children are also entering schools where the vast majority of dress code policies are both racist and sexist. This not only makes it an uphill battle for Black students to feel comfortable expressing themselves, but it also sends a discriminatory message to all of our kids that being Black is something that needs strict policing. And when 14 million students already go to schools that are packed with police instead of counselors, nurses, psychologists, or social workers, this message comes across even more loud and clear.
Racially biased teachers overwhelmingly hurt and disparage our Black youth, and they also teach our white children that it’s totally okay to be a Karen. If we want to stop all the fragile white assholes in our country from calling the police on innocent Black human beings, we must also be dedicated to keeping them from being fragile white assholes to the Black kids and teens in our country who deserve to learn, grow, and be loved as much as the rest of our children are.