(WGHP) — When Philando Castile was shot and killed during a traffic stop in 2016, Cherrel Miller Dyce got a tough question from her son.
“He said, ‘Mom why did they have to shoot him?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know son, I’m still trying to figure it out,'” she said.
He came back to her room a few minutes later with a rap.
“I was so blown away that I grabbed my camera and began to record him because I was watching a second grader reflect on race in real-time,” she said.
That rap was the beginning of a sourcebook this Elon University professor co-authored that she hopes helps grownups reflect on race, especially in education. It’s called Black Males Matter: A Blueprint for Creating School and Classroom Environments to Support Their Academic and Social Development.
“We know that our personal experiences, our biases, what we bring to education is integral and impacts the ways in which we engage with people. In this case, particularly, our Black male students,” Shadonna Gunn said.
Shadonna Gunn is one of the co-authors. The third co-author, Julius Davis, runs the Center for Research and Mentoring of Black Male Students and Teachers at Bowie State University in Maryland. These three educators, who are also parents, wrote this book to break stereotypes they believe exist whether people acknowledge they exist or not.
“We know those things will impact the way we engage,” Gunn said. “So we wanted to provide a sourcebook that would provide the space and really give educators the grace to pause and take the time to do the self-reflection.”
“We all bring biases to life or to situations,” Dyce said. “And we do have incidents that happen in school that can be perceived and are perceived as issues around race. We can’t deny those. What we have to think about is how do we approach those? How do we have the conversation without blaming each other, without demonizing each other.”
Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows disparities in discipline as early as pre-school. The most recent data, which is from 2017-2018, shows black males made up 7.7% of overall public school enrollment but 25% of one or more out-of-school suspensions. These authors say there’s plenty of space at the table for everyone to have conversations about how race plays into everyday classroom experiences and how to improve outcomes.
“That’s truly our goal, that educators take the time to really internalize and reflect on their own personal experiences and biases and really begin to think about how can I shift in some cases the ways in which I engage with Black males,” Gunn said.
“This is about the heart and not always the head, the intellect,” Dyce said. “Race work is difficult. It’s nuanced. It’s complex, and if you don’t enter that with a space of grace, of listening and active listening then we’re going to have disagreements. and it’s OK to do that, but we want to enter from a space of grace.”