Rochester City School District (RCSD): Racism in the Classroom


Multimedia business owner, racial consultant and current University of Rochester graduate student Amen Imhotep Ptah, who is pursuing a Master degree in Marriage of Family and a Ph.D. in Public Health, sat down with Southwest Tribune to speak about the recent complaints from parents regarding hearing their child’s teacher during zoom classes refer to Black people as monkeys and that their ancestors had tails.

Southwest Tribune: Several parents have recently posted on Facebook, in their own words: “Parents! Please listen in on the lessons/falsehoods these teachers are perpetuating to OUR BLACK CHILDREN! Did this fool just tell my daughter that black people had tails (monkeys) and let the white student suggest my daughter must be stupid cause she doesn’t watch the history channel? Then muted her when I jumped in the conversation!!! RCSD I NEED ANSWERS!!!"

Southwest Tribune: Other responses to this post included: “This same thing happened to my daughter. She ran in the house crying saying the teacher called black people monkeys. My husband and I were heated."

Southwest Tribune: Just to mention a few, racial instances that occurred. However, I would like to hear your take on this?

Amen Ptah: First and foremost, I want to say that Covid is a gift and a curse at the same time, because parents have an opportunity to hear the content their children are being taught. It is one thing when your child is coming home, and they are reporting to you. It is another when you actually hear it coming from the teacher’s mouth. And when you have this format in place, we were forced to do this. We were forced to go online and learn and that has provided us an opportunity to gauge the type of content that our children are receiving. We already know our children are being misled. We recognized the system we are involved in. Malcolm X said long ago that only a fool will allow its enemy to teach their children. And that essentially has been happening since integration but actually they never de segregated us because segregation still exists, but our society today tells us, you can have integration and segregation at the same time.

So, they integrated us, and they allowed, and we allowed their teachers to teach our children. And these teachers lack cultural confidence, they are not cultural congruent, and they do not understand the nature of our children, so of course you are going to have these issues. They do not bring their children into the public-school system to be taught, they keep them in the suburbs, where they live. Because when you look at education itself, Black children thrive more when they are taught by people who look like them. It is the same with white children. When you go into suburban classrooms, you do not see hardly any Black teachers, if there are any but once you come into the city school districts where predominantly Black children are going, you see predominately white teachers. That is on purpose. So of course, you are going to have these issues and that will continue to happen. Our children do not know who they are culturally, because we rely on systems that do not care if they are culturally centered.

Why keep trying to push multiculturalism. Terms like this are used to hide racism. For example,the term minority. The only group of people that is not considered a minority are straight white men. Everybody else is considered minorities. Gay white men, the LGBT community, all women including white and Hispanic women. So, structural and institutional racism against Black people gets watered down and nothing ever changes.They are minimizing who we are with labels to ensure we are susceptible to getting lost in the soup.

Southwest Tribune: What type of traumatic effects this could have on the children?

Amen Ptah: It could have a big impact on their self-esteem. It could make them feel less than. It could make them not want to be in their own skin complexion. It could make them wish they were white. It could make them want to bleach their skins. It creates a lot of self-hate. It perpetuates a cancerous situation for our children. I called these soul wounds. These are wounds that penetrate your soul so deeply it is so hard to heal it because it perpetuates from the moment your child is born.

In a June interview, when asked if the implementation of a robust black and Latino history program is a priority, RCSD Superintendent Dr. Leslie-Myers Small said "we need to make sure that academics also reflect our students, so we really have to dig deep, because it is hard to be it, if you cannot see it. We just have to figure out how to ensure students can find themselves in the curriculum."

In regards to Superintendent Small comment above:

In a July interview with Former RCSD Educator Howard Eagle said, being a member of a group working outside of the district but working with the RCSD officials has been a large part of their focus since 2017.

Members of the groups have recently completed a project under the moniker Racial Equity Advocacy Leadership Team (R.E.A.L) in collaboration with educators that work in the district and other community members.

“The charge of that team was to put together a racial equity plan to address racism among the teaching staff and to make recommendations towards making the district’s curriculum reflect the cultural identity of the children they educate," Eagle said.

Former Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams was responsible for putting the team together.

The project was developed over a two-year period and completed in November of 2019.

Former Superintendent Terry Dade was supposed to present it to the school board, but it never was presented before he left in July of 2020.

“School Board President Van White told us, when newly appointed Superintendent Dr. Lesli Myers-Small came on board; it would be one of the first things he would ask her to take up," Eagle recalled.

However, the R.E.A.L project today still lay in limbo.

Article by: Author and Journalist Rodney Brown, executive director of Brown Publishing LLC and Southwest Tribune Newspaper
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