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White Teachers, Black Kids Don’t Need You To Be Their “Savior”

By: Victor Trammell

We’ve all seen this stereotypical image of the urban classroom: A white teacher descending from their suburban splendor to come save the day for their predominately minority students at an under-funded public school in a poor neighborhood.

Society has compounded this image again and again in motion pictures, television shows, and a number of books. One of America’s most popular depictions of this “white savior” image of a teacher in an urban classroom is director John N. Smith’s 1995 runaway hit film Dangerous Minds.

Actress Michelle Pfeiffer plays the lead female role as LouAnne Johnson, a discharged Marine who goes to work as a teacher at Carlmont High School. Most of the teens at Carlmont High are from East Palo Alto, a city on the urban end of the school district.

Pfeiffer’s character is even called “White Bread” by the predominantly black and Latino students she teaches in the film. The students are portrayed in the film as rowdy and uncivilized until their teacher Ms. Johnson comes along to “affectionately” bring them to heel.

There are a lot of black writers and journalists with backgrounds in education that are apparently bothered by this unwritten rule that it takes a white hero to properly educate black and minority students in the inner-city. One of those writers is named Joseph Williams.

Williams is a former White House correspondent for Politico. One of his articles discussing his opposition to the “white savior” in the classroom attitude was published a few days ago on a news website called  Williams believes that black and minority inner-city students deserve more than a condescending aura from white educators.

“Research shows that a white person teaching minority kids probably doesn’t have high expectations of them even before the first homework assignments or test sheets are handed in,” Williams wrote.

“The big picture, then, becomes a dismal paradox: As economists predict most well-paying jobs in the near future will require at least an associate’s degree or certificate, minority kids are at risk of being stuck in a cycle of poverty that only a quality education can break,” he continued.

Williams makes several more valid points in his latest article.

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