Brown, A. L. (2006). Am I my brother’s keeper?: examining the political and racial discourses of African American male teachers working with African American male students. University of Wisconsin–Madison.
In recent years there has been substantial discussion in education and popular discourse about the importance of students of color having a teacher of their same race and gender. In particular, this discourse about African American male youth notes the value and need for African American male teachers to work in schools and classrooms with African American male students. Much of this discussion highlights that African American male teachers can serve as a positive “role model” for African American male students, with the assumption that African American male teachers possess a core set of experiences, knowledge and practices that would potentially motivate and inspire African American boys. While there has been an abundance of policy and education literature related to this topic, little of this work has specifically explored the schooling context of African American male teachers working with African American male students. Using Eddie Glaude’s (2001) theoretical framework of nation language , this qualitative case study examined how African American male teachers understood and approached their work with African American male students. Methods included fieldwork conducted during a school year at an African American immersion middle/high school and semi-structured interviews with both ten African American male teachers and ten African American male students who worked with the teachers. Findings reveal that contrary to public discourse that render African American male teachers as one-dimensional role models, these teachers employed a variety of diverse experiences, sources of knowledge and practices when addressing the education needs of African American male students. Additionally, this study illustrates the various ideological tensions that emerged between the teachers with respect to solutions for addressing the education and social needs of African American males. These tensions align with historical and ideological differences found in the African American community about how best to improve their socio-historical realities. Drawing from different Black political orientations (e.g. functionalism, liberalism, nationalism and critical theory), teachers in this study offered different and competing visions of who the African American male student would “become” and how he would engage in his social and political world.