Don’t Pee Down My Back & Tell Me It’s Raining: for Black teachers who have been gaslighted and KNOW that the apologies ain’t enuf*

Jun 22, 2020 by Charity Parsons, Ed.S.

Don’t Pee Down My Back & Tell Me It’s Raining: for Black teachers who have been gaslighted and KNOW that the apologies ain’t enuf*
*Because if you don’t know who Ntozake Shange is, we can’t be friends. And that’s that on THAT. Keep reading and share this post to ten friends. #StepYourBlackLiteratureGameUp

With all the new “woke” talk of culturally responsive this and equitable access that, all of a sudden everybody’s comfortable with saying “Black” … and pushing the envelope and pausing for 8 minutes and 46 seconds ….when just last week, last month, last year you persecuted, ostracized, and chose not to place Black educators at the head of any of these conversations.   That’s not how you do it the best way; that my friends, is how you perpetuate and continue to exacerbate the very thing that ties you to your newfound, trendy bandwagon. Alas, I digress…. 

It wasn’t until I received my 10th “I’m sorry, Charity”, from what felt like yet another White colleague, when I was able to put words to what I was feeling. Each and every time they would follow their sorrow by asking “How are you doing?”.
I am 
“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows my sorrow” 

“Don’t be sorry hoe, be careful”

Being the recovering undercover, overthinker that I am (shout out to Badu), I had to process that and, again, put words to the antipathy I felt with each apology I faced. You see, this “race thing” is not new, it is by design. Apologies through words mean nothing to a people who have experienced dismissal and disenfranchisement as a whole. The only apologies that can be accepted are changed policies, systems, and patterns of behavior. It is my goal herein to give you a few insights, share my honest heartfelt ideas, and declare a trajectory thereon we can all press forward together. As educators, we are going to get this “race thing” right, this time, for the last time.  


The concept of gaslighting originates from a 1938 film in which the wife is slowly manipulated by the husband to think that she is going mad. He does this by dimming the gas powered lights in their house, denies her observations of said dimming, all to eventually make the wife doubt her sanity. This denial, contradiction, and disorientation are all characteristic of gaslighting. In the case of education, it is a phenomena that, as a manipulation, creates an inappropriate authority dynamic between the gaslit Black educator and the gaslighting educational system. In this COVID19, Black Lives Matter era of education, it is mandatory that you understand the concept of gaslighting Black teachers, so as not to perpetuate this persistent disenfranchisement of Black educators as we all work together to redesign a system to intentionally serve ALL students. 

Following Brown v. Board of Education Topeka, there was a deep loss of Black teachers to integrated schools who would not hire the Black teachers and systematically defunded & under resourced Black schools #thisWeKnow. A great number of Black teachers were lost following Brown v. Board of Education Topeka; many high-performing, designated exceptional teachers were transferred to predominantly White integrated schools. Simultaneously, the lowest-performing, White teachers were moved into the Black schools #thisWeKnow. While schools went about integrating the teaching staff, new Black teachers were not hired. Black teachers who spent years at the segregated Black schools were fired as the systems integrated the predominantly White schools #thisWeKnow. Lies surrounding the positioning of Black educators as outsiders and unqualified eventually became malinformed beliefs and internalized truths #thisWeKnow.  Despite all of these alternative facts, Black educators persist and resist the abusive debauchery of a system designed to stifle both Black educator and Black student #thisWeKnow

This is my CHEERS! to the next era in education; my homage to both the gaslit Black educator and ancestor Ntozake Shange. 

Teacher in Yellow

somebody almost walked off with alla’ my stuff

It is when an international organization has voiced its dedication to excellence in education, yet stifles the voices of those who outwardly speak the word Black. 

It is when a White educator who attended a book workshop is given the lead on an equity project and you, the Black educator, are brought on as an assistant, a support. 

Teacher in Orange

Where there is Black [teacher], there is magic

It is baffling af and hella opportunistic to see the explosion of the terms “culturally responsive”, “equitable”, and “abolitionist pedagogy”, serving as talking points, webinar topics, and Instagram memes.  If there are not Black educators leading these conversations, ask yourself if you’re participating in gaslighting. You see, Black educators have always maintained the importance of connecting with Black students, linking them to community members, placing them in internships & jobs, building entrepreneurship, making content relevant, authentic, and purposeful; all with limited resources, defunded and under-resourced schools. Supporting the whole student has always been a pedagogical practice for the Black educator, of the Black students. No bells and whistles needed, Black educators make magic happen everywhere they are, yet suffocate in a system of racial smog which overlooks their accomplishments and methodology. Imagine the humiliating frisk of having your ideas and intuition denied, only to be packaged and resold back to you as an innovation in White face.

It is operating since the dawn of Black education in America on the premise that “we make something out of nothing.” Black educators exemplify the principles of relationships, building background knowledge, and collective responsibility.  Black educators KNOW that all ships rise with the tide. Dear everyone else, leverage your resources, ideas, activism, and guilt to force this tide to rise.

Teacher in Red

My love is too beautiful to have thrown back on my face

It is Black educators, especially Black men, being placed in roles as disciplinarian and athletic coaches versus serving students as an actual source of instructional wisdom.

It is being the sole reduction in force taken after your defence of a Black student who was being mistreated by Black school administration. The lies about Black educators’ ability being mainstreamed so much that the Black educators themselves internalize and sometimes perpetuate the fallacies. Black teachers, too, sometimes help to further dole out the inequities of imbalanced power dynamics. I bring a conversation for all of us to proceed full of care.

My love is the desire to labor in the field of education, odds withstanding.

My love is the oneness and universal intersectionality that inherently happens when Black minds TRULY matter. I firmly believe ample resources exist for there to be an appropriate attention to the proper pedagogy wherein education is an act of freedom. 


Consider the following & TAKE ACTION! 

Pack up all those bags of guilt and remorse.  Tie each bag with the threads of reluctance that held you back previously from explicitly stating “Black” and “Brown”. Tuck all of that in your newfound, rather empty bag of care and deliver it all to the doorstep of your local school boards and decision makers. Leave it with them, because it doesn’t belong to the Black and Brown educators. 

I can’t be a gaslit educator anymore. 

This ain’t a victim stance; consider it an open invitation to do THE work.

With care-full trepidation, I accept your colorful explanations and heartfelt apologies. The time has come to turn talk into action. Fund your newfound affinities; provide financial backing and active support to organizations that do THE work; survey the schools in your property tax zone, inquire if the school teacher population is such that all students benefit from the dynamics of seeing and learning from Black educators. Consider the following starting points to support the work:
  • Offer services like school/program coaching, co-development of programs, at sliding scale rates if not for free, 
  • Allot for a philanthropic component of every transaction. How can you truly each one reach one with every service your organization provides? 
  • Voice the fact that police officers are not the only way to secure a school site; there are men and  women in the students’ community, who could provide just the same service and protection
  • Reevaluate and  adjust funding mechanisms for school districts 
  • Incentivize innovation in pedagogy that is proven to benefit ALL students i.e. Texas’ most recent legislation, allotting $50 per student if they attend a New Tech Network school.
  • Attend your local school board meetings
  • Speak with your school board member regarding hiring policies at all levels from the board, to the school sites, and every department in between
  • Research property taxing and funding as related to your local districts.
  • How does this relate to the housing & systemic ills that have historically perpetuated the inequities in resources for your city?
  • School districting lines need to be drawn with equity in mind, keeping in mind the property taxing lines  and the historical redlining of spaces

Let’s work on this collectively for the greater good stance.  This compounded issue requires a complex approach to solving it.  Schools and systems have to recruit, appreciate, and affirm Black educators as we press forward for that which is best for ALL students. The simplicity and the elegance of the Black Minds Matter era of education is that the pivot in focus towards Black students fosters a space for true intersectionality.  We will eventually reach the ALL of the movement; we must first ameliorate the Black of the movement.

It is in excellent order to let your Black educator friends know that you think of them and that their work is dope.  Show them love, repost their work, infuse it into your facilitation, spread the information and their experiences, learn from their work. Give yourselves grace, be candid in your self-talk and self-reflections, and allow radical honesty to drive every conversation. If we cannot speak truth to power, we will never reach the finish line.  And it is my goal to see you at the finish line, my friends. Keep in touch @iDoSchool

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