I am a Black, male teacher who taught in an urban, public middle school in a majority-minority area for four years. I left the teaching profession when I realized that my presence as a teacher was no longer valued and considered; I felt like I was trapped in a form of masculinity that did not exist for me as a Black male. The males I taught, it seemed to me while I was teaching, were more concerned about sports, rapping, playing around in class, and joking with each other more than they cared about learning the material. that I was supposed to be teaching them.
I was already the only Black, male English teacher in the building, but I was also dealing with students who were not valuing the work that I wanted to teach them. Because I was the only Black male, and the rest of the English teachers in my building were white and female, I felt that my opinions were not validated nor were they used to increase the literacy proficiency of the Black males in my classes.
With this in mind, it was easy for me to fall into deficit thinking, a thinking that allowed me to blame my students for their low-test scores and the behavior they brought into the classroom. I was good at classroom management, but I never felt like I was making any progress in learning with my Black, male students. So, feeling tired, stressed out, and lonely in a profession that I felt did not value me, I left the teaching profession and sought to obtain a PhD because I thought it would be easier for me to get my thoughts on paper and to talk with other people who had been educators in the past.
However, as I have ended my first semester as a PhD student, and now at the beginning of my second semester, I have never felt more lonely and withdrawn from the people around me. I have found that no one really has questions about my topics or my research explorations, but their faces tell a different story. I feel almost alien in a community that does not accept that I practice a form of masculinity that is not the norm for Black males. It is almost as if I am expected to be hyper-masculine; I am expected to listen to rap music that degrades women; I am expected to sag my pants; I am expected to not know the literature that surrounds my research interests.
So, again, I am put into a situation in which I am the “other” or the person whose conceptualizations about Black men and masculinity are seen as a foreign concept that shouldn’t be talked about. I am a Black male performing a progressive form of masculinity, a masculinity that does not exist to dominate others, but a masculinity that exists to “speak back” to the narrative that Black men are somehow deficient because of the way they act. Hopefully, I do not have to walk this path alone, but I do feel that there are not many Black men who want to profess that their actions will not conform to the standard. Therefore, I will walk alone, or alone in the circumference of the university, and continue to speak my truth as to what I believe a Black man is supposed to be and how he should act.