Why Black Teachers Walk Away

African American teacher

The disillusionment of Toya Frank stemmed from a talk with a parent about her mathematics teacher, who happened to be a Black math teacher at her school. As chair of the mathematics department, it was her obligation to listen to parents and to keep the best interests of students at the forefront of her thoughts and actions. That implied that the subject of whether Black math teachers are equally qualified to their white counterparts was being addressed.

Frank was a Black mathematics teacher who was acutely aware of the subtle microaggressions, insults, and slights that instructors of color were subjected to regularly. She had a brief moment of shock when she informed her parents that she was the math chair. “I was expecting someone else,” I explained.

Frank is currently employed as a professor of mathematics education at George Mason University. She investigates the recruitment and selection process.

retention of Black math teachers. A new study in Educational Researcher found that Black teachers’ experiences with

Apart from income and support from school officials, racism was shown to be more significant than other factors such as a lack of resources.

Frank and her colleagues conducted a nationwide survey of 325 Black mathematics educators. Their school administrators were asked a series of questions about their experiences of loneliness and support from their peers. The findings revealed that while personal characteristics such as age, sex, and money accounted for 10% of the teachers’ thoughts about leaving the profession, the impact of their microaggressions was almost twice as substantial, accounting for 17% of their decisions to leave the profession.

The researchers discovered that even after controlling for pay, age, and gender—all of the other variables that had been included in earlier studies—racist microaggressions had a significant amount of explanatory power inside their model, according to Frank and colleagues. It was statistically significant, according to the data. It was one of those things that weighed on the minds of teachers who were contemplating retirement.


Although microaggressions can seem minor once in a while, they can have a devastating effect on the psychological health of teachers over many years or even a lifetime.

Frank asserted that microaggressions are not always based on a person’s race. Gender, nationality, and linguistic differences are all factors that can influence discrimination. According to Frank, “They are minor interpersonal slights among and between people.” If Black instructors believe that their contributions are not recognized or that their competency is not being questioned, they may consider themselves to be discriminated against. Their assertiveness, on the other hand, can be misinterpreted as hostility or aggression. Teachers who are subjected to microaggressions regularly may begin to feel like second-class citizens.

An incident like this is not unheard of. It is a rather common occurrence. According to Toya, 97 percent of instructors who responded to a study said they were subjected to racial microaggressions regularly. This demonstrates the pervasiveness of microaggressions among Black teachers in the classroom.

Professor emerita in education at George Mason University, Jenice View, a coauthor of the report and a member of the faculty, do not find it shocking that Black teachers, including herself, are subjected to bigotry. “I worked as a team teacher in this program, but all of my colleagues were White,” remembers View. I was invited to give a presentation to a class by one of my colleagues. It was Dr. So-and-So who introduced them, followed by “This is Dr. So-and-So.” After that, he turned to gaze at me and added, “And this is Jenice. “No, it’s Dr. View,” I said in response. The fact that this was true was beyond doubt in his mind. He believed it was vital to present myself as a less-than-worthy candidate. Among the many insinuations of “You don’t belong” at the academy, this was possibly the most egregious. However, there are plenty of others.

Is MATH a racial slur?

Frank and View point out that math are sometimes misconstrued as being a culturally insensitive subject. Despite the appearance of neutrality in math training, it is integrated within a system that sends subtle messages to the White Man that science and mathematics are the realms of the dominant race.

The response from science and mathematics professors was almost always, “But 2+2 equals 4 all across the world, in all civilizations.” “Why do we need to incorporate things like culture or race?” View inquired. Mathematics, on the other hand, is a living, breathing human effort. There is also a strong sense of culture there.

“Who gets credit for having math knowledge?” Frank inquired further. We can talk about the Fibonacci sequence and give credit to Fibonacci at the same time. Alternatively, we can examine how ideas comparable to ours were created in India and Asia. Because I am the one who teaches my algebra class, I believe it is extremely vital for my pupils to realize that algebra originates in the Middle East.

To emphasize his argument, Jose Vilson, a seasoned middle school math teacher, said that language functions similarly. “It is possible to assert that English is not racist,” he remarked. It’s only one language, after all. It is critical to understand how racist ideologies are reinforced and concretized through the use of racialized language.

Wilson observed that in America, mathematics is centered on Whiteness. “I don’t believe that mathematics is neutral,” he stated. “All of the axioms that have been applied to mathematics have been developed by people. People bring their prejudices with them when they travel. This is carried out at all levels of authority. If America has major racial problems, and particularly serious racist difficulties, then what we teach will be mirrored in that racism,” says the author.


Black teachers can also suffer from burnout as they are often expected to assume additional responsibilities because of their perceived connection to students of color. Former U.S Education Secretary John King wrote in the Washington Post. Black teachers are at greater risk of being fired if they don’t pay the “invisible tax”, which drains their time and energy.

Wilson feels that a “hidden tax” is imposed on Black instructors who take on difficult assignments but are not compensated or promoted as a result of their efforts. Teachers of color, according to him, are frequently called upon to function as disciplinarians in their respective classrooms. They are frequently tasked with handling the most difficult subjects simply because they are capable. They are frequently requested to take the lead on equity concerns rather than figuring out how the work should be split.

Wilson cited a recent study as an example of how teachers of color are treated unfairly in the classroom. In an analysis of more than 5,500 Chicago teacher evaluations, researchers discovered that the “race gap” was primarily caused by “differences between school and classroom environments in which teachers are taught, rather than real differences in teacher performance.” The researchers concluded that Black teachers were “disproportionately (and incorrectly) targeted for remediation or dismissal relative to their White peers.”

Interviews with instructors have revealed that many of them are concerned about Black teachers parading Black boys to class to discipline and straighten them up, which is a microaggression, according to Frank.


Wilson cited Brown V. Board of Education to be a historical tipping point, but with surprising results. Schools that had Black students and were staffed predominantly by Black teachers were closed and students have bused away to schools with white teachers. School segregation was declared illegal. According to a 2014 study, 38,000 Black educators lost work in the years after Brown.

Because of this, there was a huge shift in the way Black instructors and communities viewed their roles in the classroom, particularly in secondary education. According to one point of view, black teachers across all disciplines understood what they were trying to accomplish during segregation. In addition, “every discipline, every content area was supposed to be a tool for undoing institutional racism,” says the author. In this process, mathematics evolved into…. one of these instruments. This explains why explicit language was more widespread in schools that were segregated based on race in the past than it is now. Sometimes the sole Black teacher, or one of only a few Black teachers in a school’s discipline, is also the only Black teacher in the whole school system.

Today, Black teachers are severely underrepresented in the workforce. 13% are Black in the United States, but 7% are Black public school teachers. Despite efforts to diversify teaching staff, the percentage of Black teachers has fallen by one percent over the past 20 years.

We must examine the history of institutional racism in schools now to comprehend why Black teachers leave the profession. According to one point of view, “Education should be about freedom.” “This is reflected in the pedagogies employed by Black teachers,” says the author.

Wilson agrees as well. “When people talk about racism, they dilute it to the interactions we have between any number of people,” he explained. All of those factors are vital, even if we don’t pay attention to how many policies we put in place from the time we first join the classroom until the time we leave our positions as educators. We are frequently forced to bear the weight of all of these elements.

This is a bigger problem than any one teacher can resolve. Wilson suggests that schools should have conversations about the benefits of Black teachers, which are often overlooked or taken for granted.

Wilson stated that people mistakenly believe that children’s brains are open and they can just pour in information. Wilson said that teachers must also be able to take the information from the child’s brain and transfer it to others’ brains. Being a great teacher requires more than just having your students memorize the content.

Wilson stated, “My students will not point to the standard I taught them but they will point to how they felt like they belong, how they felt intelligent, and how I made their shine.”