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The Huffington Post Interview: Pamela Lewis of 'Teaching While Black'

2nd March 2016

On March 1st, The Huffington Post released an interview with Fordham Press author, Pamela Lewis, whose new book, Teaching While Black: A New Voice on Race and Education in New York City, comes out this month.  The Huffington Post describes Lewis as not like most of your fellow teachers.  Why is that? It is because “Lewis is black. She’s from the North Bronx and grew up in housing projects. She attended schools in which it was not a given that students would go on to colleges and careers.”  It is due to these factors that Lewis writes about making an effort to focus special attention on minority students because they are up against different odds than the other students.

In this interview, Lewis answers questions, such as “Why did you decide to go into education?” and “As someone who grew up in the same type of community as a lot of your students, what are the things you’re able to see in your students that someone else might miss?”

To the latter of the two questions, Lewis responds by saying:

“One thing that sticks out for me is understanding the need to change the self-perception of black and brown students. I speak about this lack of self-love that many of our children face as a result of living in a white supremacist world. I think sometimes if you don’t have that perspective, you might not necessarily pick up on how many times it rears its ugly head.

If we had more black and brown leadership that knew how to speak to these issues, then we could have a massive shift in our children’s state of minds, which would only bring forth greater achievement.

It’s not that I don’t think white teachers can be change agents. That’s not what I’m saying at all. But at the same time, don’t tell me you think you totally get my students in the same capacity that I could. It’s nothing against you. We need to have more faces of color showing students where we came from and how we still were able to achieve despite where we came from. 

I don’t want students to grow up thinking that white people are the gatekeepers of education. When they only see white teachers, they think education is whiteness, and that sends a message, and that’s the wrong message to send.”

To read the complete interview, you can do so here.

Be sure to check out Pamela Lewis’ Teaching While Black and other related titles on Fordham University Press’ website.