Black leaders put forward plan to increase opportunity for people of color

Men of Color in Educational Leadership calls on education leaders across the country to join the effort to fight racism with a four-point plan
By: | July 10, 2020
Men of Color in Educational Leadership works to remove racism from education and increase opportunity for people of color.
Harrison Peters is the Superintendent of Providence Public School District and Co-Founder of Men of Color in Educational Leadership.

Harrison Peters is the Superintendent of Providence Public School District and Co-Founder of Men of Color in Educational Leadership.

Black people are tired. We’re hurt. We’re depressed. We’re angry. We are losing hope while wondering, will the world we exist in ever allow us to live? As Black professionals and Black men leading some of the nation’s largest and most diverse school districts, we can’t afford for our hurt and exhaustion to give way to hopelessness.

As more white people educate themselves about our experience they’ll learn that it has, cruelly, demanded that we live two lives. Black professionals, men and women, including Black educators and district leaders, are required to speak, walk, sit and engage differently to allow our white colleagues to feel comfortable around us.

Frankly, we’ve been forced to do this our entire life.

As Black students – starting in elementary school – we learned to mask our lived truth from our academic experience. The unconscious influence of racism and implicit bias not seen by white teachers and classmates required living in accordance to a white standard in order to survive. Unfortunately, ignorance of racism and bias continues to teach us to mask the truth in our professional lives.

Too often, success is a result of luck

Education, many are led to believe, is the path to a better future. Our reality taught us that individual education on its own is not a guaranteed ticket to justice. Too often, our trajectory in the classroom is tied to someone taking an extraordinary interest in helping us individually. For those of us who are fortunate, it’s like winning the lottery. However, despite the kindness and generosity, we still struggle to gain access and opportunity in light of the systemic barriers we are challenged to face. These individual acts of kindness tended to be ordinary experiences for most white students and often materialized into privileged experiences in schools. We can’t ask another generation of Black kids to hope and pray they win the lottery and find a mentor who can open doors for them.


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In its purest form, our institution – public education – is, perhaps, our only hope of taking down the pandemic of institutional racism that threatens Black lives. As a nation, we need to rise to the occasion by answering the call to educate Black students. The history of our institutions focusing on gaps and disparities in college readiness has done nothing more than divert the attention off educators’ inability to fill the gaping holes our systems have left in their education. White students, white teachers, and white families who proclaim “we all matter” cannot choose to be ignorant to the lived experiences of Black Americans.

For 20 years, Men of Color in Educational Leadership (MCEL) informally convened to allow male leaders of color the opportunity to engage in open and honest dialogue. These discussions proved pivotal in coping with the unique and very real challenges that male leaders of color are forced to confront. Since 2017 MCEL has been a national education and advocacy group of school district superintendents and executive leaders focused on accelerating outcomes for all students through growing and developing male educational leaders of color.

A plan of action to increase opportunity

To make that extraordinary opportunity more ordinary for young men and women of color, MCEL is calling on education leaders across the country to join us in committing to the following:

1. Identifying, developing, and elevating more Black leaders, especially Black males. With less than 4% of school and district administrators being Black males, administrative decisions are being made through a monocultural lens. Unconscious racial bias in administrative decision-making results in lower expectations for students of color and increased rates of disciplinary action. Black leaders need to be elevated to the decision-making table and they need support in finding their strategic voice as they advocate for students of color.

2. Calling out and addressing institutional racism in education. Structural racism is prevalent in education and that too often drives Black teachers out of the profession. In any given year, Black teachers are nearly 50 percent more likely to leave teaching than their white colleagues. That’s in part because Black teachers are more likely to work in schools with higher quit rates: lower-performing schools and schools with frequent turnover in leadership.


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3. Set expectations for anti-racist school culture. Use your leadership position to clearly state your vision of anti-racism. Work to ensure all district and school staff (principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians, office staff) are anti-racist. Provide training to provide staff with tools and strategies to combat racism.

4. Increase support for leaders of color. Increase networking opportunities for educational leaders of color. Networking provides a powerful system of support for all leaders and is especially critical for leaders of color. Our organization, Men of Color in Educational Leadership, is an example of a network of educational leaders focused on supporting male leaders of color in education leadership positions. Male leaders of color have both a unique perspective and face unique challenges in leading education organizations. MCEL is committed to developing leaders through networking, coaching, and providing tools that can support leaders.

The unconscious bias in mainstream America is explicit racism in Black America. We believe our leadership can change this dynamic. We are asking our true allies, especially those with power and influence, to join MCEL in committing to these actions.

The unconscious bias in mainstream America is explicit racism in Black America. We believe our leadership can change this dynamic. We are asking our true allies, especially those with power and influence, to join MCEL in committing to these actions.

Black people will not fix racism. Nor should we. And as hard as it is to feel hopeful as Black men in America at this moment in history, we are heartened that we are working in the one institution powerful enough to force every other institution to change.


Harrison Peters is the Superintendent of Providence Public School District and Co-Founder of Men of Color in Educational Leadership. Learn more about MCEL at mcelleaders.com.