Racism in Schools Is Pushing More Black Families to Homeschool Their Children

Ama Mazama, Washington Post, April 10, 2015

Homeschooling, common among white Americans, is showing an increase among African-Americans kids, as well. African Americans now make up about 10 percent of all homeschooled children in this fastest-growing form of education. However, the reasons for black kids to be homeschooled may not be the same as for white kids. My research shows that black parents homeschool their children due to white racism.

This may come as a surprise since, for many, we live in an age of alleged color blindness and post-racialism, characterized by the declining significance of race and racism. My research found strong evidence to suggest that racism is far from being a thing of the past. I found covert institutional racism and individual racism still persist and are largely responsible for the persistence of profound racial disparities and inequalities in many social realms. Schools, of course, are no exception, which helps one understand why racism is such a powerful drive for black homeschoolers.

In the spring and fall of 2010, I interviewed 74 African-American homeschooling families from around the U.S. While the size of my sample does not allow me to claim that it is representative of the whole African-American homeschooling population, it was nonetheless large enough to allow me to capture the main reasons why black parents tend to homeschool their children.

Eurocentric curriculum and teachers’ attitudes

When it comes to schools, there are at least two important areas of concern: the curriculum and teachers’ attitudes and behaviors. School curricula continue to promote a worldview developed by Western civilization. This wholesale Eurocentric orientation of most schools’ curricula, in a society that, ironically, is becoming increasingly brown, speaks volumes about a pervasive European ethnocentrism–that is, the notion that every one in the world thinks and does or should think and do like Europeans.


{snip} This results in a general school-sanctioned ignorance about Africa and its descendants and in a disdain for the black experience, as I found through my interviews. Eventually, this becomes a pervasive and potent form of institutional racism.

Racial stereotypes harm black kids

Furthermore, the attitudes and actions of white teachers (who make up 85 percent of all public school teachers) were questioned by many of the African-American parents with whom I spoke. They consistently portrayed white teachers as overly critical, unresponsive, unqualified, insensitive, offensive, mean, hypocritical, and using double standards. Indeed, many white teachers seem to bring into the schools the many racist stereotypes and attitudes that have been ingrained in them, in particular the notions that blacks lack in intelligence, or are notoriously lazy and bent on criminality.


Harsh school punishments

Likewise, black students account nationally for 34 percent of all suspensions. In reality, harsh school punishments have become one of the primary mechanisms through which the school-to-prison pipeline operates, pushing large numbers of black children out of school and into the “justice” system to feed the prison industrial complex that has blossomed over recent years.


Given this state of affairs, it is hardly surprising that a growing number of black parents, frustrated with a school system that is quick to criminalize and disenfranchise their children, turn to homeschooling as an alternative. Thus, for many black parents, homeschooling equates with a refusal to surrender their children to a system that they see as bent on destroying them. For them, it is an act of active and conscious resistance to racism.


In general, two strategies are commonly observed among black home educators: imparting self-knowledge and self-esteem through positive teaching about Africa and African-Americans. While finding ready-to-use educational materials can be challenging, most parents reported creating their own materials, by drawing from different sources, such as books, documentaries, the internet, field-trips, etc. Many go out of their way to provide exposure to black people who have achieved greatness in their domain, for instance, literature, science, or history, in an effort not only to educate their children about their history and culture, but also to instill racial pride and confidence in them.

In other words, many black homeschooling parents engage in racial protectionism, so that they will have the self-confidence and knowledge necessary to face and overcome the hurdles that white racism appears to place in their path.


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