The Educators Voice Blog is highlighting humanizing Black boys as an educational priority. Enjoy this interview of a Black male educational leader, Dr. McMillan out of D.C.
What’s a myth, stereotype of Black boys that you see across education?
The biggest myth about Black Boys in public schools is they are not as smart as their peers of another race and gender. This perception is intentional. This ideology is running rampant in schools. This myth has led to bias towards Black boys. However, this myth is not new. Black boys perceived to be less smart, less intelligible, less capable and less intellectual have been held since the days of slavery in this country. In 2023, this same ideology simply mutated and transformed to only keep the same results. The systems and structures in this country disables Black boys from being fully educated. I’m defining education by reaching their full potential and self-actualization. Therefore, we have many Black boys who grow into Black men and never reach their fullest potential because of this myth which is embedded in the structure of this country.
What are some of the successes you've witnessed with teachers and Black boys?
I have witnessed several successes. Black boys are warriors by nature. Therefore, they love challenges. When teachers hold high standards for Black boys, they usually rise to the challenge. Their competitiveness is not a weakness, but it is their strength. When teachers use this strength to educate and teach, it usually yields academic growth and engagement. For example, gaming has been successful in classrooms that I have observed. Black boys' engagement increased because of their competitive nature. I highly recommend incorporating healthy competition in instruction. They are also resilient. Even if they don’t win in competitions, if they have fraternity and support, they will continue to engage.
What are areas we can collective work to push more Black boys into including education?
To be frank, there are not enough Black men in classrooms. Black male teachers represent less than 1% in our country. In education as a whole, we only represent about 2%. Our Black boys need to see us. We need to create a pipeline starting in elementary for Black boys to enter education. We also need to advocate for an increase in pay. Teachers in a large part of the country do not get paid enough. Black men are leaders of their household and need to be able to provide for themselves and his family. We will not attract Black men and other talent because of the low salary. We need to advocate in this area.
Many Black parents don't have good experiences with administrators because of policy implementation. What can Black administrators do to implement restorative justice practices?
Intentional relationships are very important for parents. Therefore, at the beginning of school, there must be a space to form intentional positive relationships. Also, customer service is vital. As a Black school leader of Black children, we have to know which leadership theories we need to put into place for specific parents.
For example, servant leadership, transactional leadership, charismatic leadership and other theories should be implemented. In respect to restorative justice, we have to do more listening to seek understanding. This is not to suggest that we will agree with everything that is being shared. Understanding is not the same as agreement. There will be moments where we must hold parents accountable because they are ultimately their child’s first and primary educators. However, this accountability must be done in a restorative way.
Many of our parents have their own school trauma and/or disappointments. We must work intentionally to play a part to show up and show them that they can trust us.
Dr. DeMarcus McMillan is a graduate from Howard University School of Education where his research focused on the best practices for Black boys in K-12 education. He also serves as a school leader in Washington, DC.