Today I read the news about a Black mom facing charges of second-degree assault and strangulation after authorities say she beat her daughter’s middle school teacher to the point of unconsciousness. At first when I saw this headline, I chuckled, only out of the fact that it took place on Long Island and I know the school district. But upon informing myself more, I’m really sad to see another story of our system set up to keep Black women held behind. While major news outlets lead the story with headlines of the Black mom as the aggressor, what they make sure to leave out until the middle of the story is that this mom was reacting to the claim that the teacher “put her hands” on her child.
So I want to break this down.
I’m not saying the mom in this story is right for hitting the teacher (though I’m not exactly saying she is completely wrong either), the main problem here for me is that this teacher put her hands on this child. For those who didn’t grow up with a Black woman in their household—to “put their hands on my child” is a statement we know to mean serious business.
Another problem I have here is the fact that the media is framing the teacher as a good steward because she’s been teaching for over 20 years—painting the picture that because she’s been working in the school for so long, she obviously cares about educating children. Yet, in her own words, she never felt safe teaching. So my question is, why are you there?
If you don’t feel safe, how can you truly be invested in seeing the success of your students?
The teacher was quoted saying “the children have no respect for adults….They can’t control the kids.” This quote doesn’t lead me to believe she has any respect for her students, because she doesn’t respect the parents who raise them—it should be noted that Hempstead is an under-served community of colour. Humans of New York recently showed us the beautiful story of a Brooklyn high school whose students face challenges outside of school which sometimes makes teachers feel discouraged—yet, the teachers interviewed never described fear of going into their jobs. To them, seeing their students succeed was all they want. The Hempstead middle school teacher does not seem to have the same investment.
Hempstead’s school district is often compared with my hometown’s school district (along with the 2-3 other predominately-Black school districts on Long Island), so this story hits home for me. I know first-hand what it’s like to be in the class of a white teacher in a Black school district who, despite the fact they have taught in the community for 20+ years, expresses a strong disinterest and biased views towards their students of colour.
I’m not saying the teacher deserved to be choked up against the lockers, but why did she think it was ok to put her hands on a student? And furthermore, why has the TEACHER not been charged for any type of unprofessional conduct with the student for the incident? In a very similar situation of my childhood, my mom once cleared through “security measures” to confront a teacher of mine after I told her of a particular disrespectful encounter I had with her the same day. She did this only after the teacher evaded all phone calls my mom made to address it. In my story, the teacher confused my mom for a student and talked to her the way she normally did to the other Black kids, allowing my mom to know exactly the kind of racist disrespect she was dealing with. My gut tells me the Hempstead teacher of this story would have reacted in a similar way.
Just because you’ve been teaching for 20 years doesn’t mean you care about seeing your children succeed.
Black mothers send their children to school with the expectation that their children are being cared for and nurtured into bright and educated pieces of Black excellence. The last thing they should have to hear is a teacher putting their hands on their child. It is unacceptable. And until we can have an honest conversation about treating both teacher and parent fairly, we must continue to question the system that is placing blame. Because we know America doesn’t want to see Black women succeed.