Over the past year, the Washington Post ran a series on Being Black and Male in America, that Ive heard they are going to turn into a book. Which is fine. I happen to be both, and a gay one, and know that it’s hard and all of that. However these conversations often seem to be presupposed on the notion that Black women have it so easy–that by virtue of their gender (or sex, I should say) they are somehow viewed as less threatening to whites–and alot of straight black people thinks this is true about white attitudes towards Black gay men as well.
Anyhoo, a new study shows that teachers tend to view the behavior of black girls as not “ladylike” and therefore focus disciplinary action on encouraging behaviors like passivity, deference, and bodily control at the expense of curiosity, outspokenness, and assertiveness.
(The following is from press release about it published by a DC-based organization called Gender Public Advocacy Coalition on the study.)
Based on two years’ observation at a Texas middle school, the Ohio University study found that teachers’ class- and race-based assumptions of black femininity made them more likely to discourage behaviors and characteristics that lead to class involvement and educational success. The teachers’ actions appeared to be less the result of conscious racism or sexism than an unwitting tendency to view the behavior of black girls through a different lens than that of their peers.
Among the findings of the study: black girls who actively sought out the positive attention of their teachers in class by asking questions were reprimanded by teachers, while boys and girls of other racial and ethnic groups behaving similarly were rarely disciplined in the same manner for their actions.
“A lot of the females, especially Black females here, try to have some authority over me in class. I say to them ‘Uh-uh—I’m the only adult in here.’ But they think they are adults too…” said Ms. Duncan, a teacher at the observed school.
The study, written by Ohio University Sociology Assistant Professor Edward W. Morris, is called : “Ladies” or “Loudies”? Perceptions and Experiences of Black Girls in Classrooms. And it is published in an academic peer review journal called Youth & Society. The abstract is below:
Although much scholarship has focused on the schooling experiences of African American boys, this article demonstrates that African American girls encounter unique educational perceptions and obstacles. Black girls in a predominately minority school performed well academically, but educators often questioned their manners and behavior. Some tried to mold many of these girls into “ladies,” which entailed curbing behavior perceived as “loud” and assertive. This article advances theories of intersectionality by showing how race and class shape perceptions of femininity for Black girls, and how the encouragement of more traditionally feminine behavior could ultimately limit their academic potential.