The Urban Review

, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 218–234 | Cite as

Policing and Teaching: The Positioning of Black Male Teachers as Agents in the Universal Carceral Apparatus

  • Travis J. BristolEmail author
  • Marcelle Mentor


Given the challenging in- and out-of-school outcomes that some boys and young men of color exhibit, researchers, policymakers, and practitioners have advocated for increasing the number of Black male teachers. This strategy is predicated on the belief that having same-race and same-gender teachers can improve student learning. Drawing on Shedd’s Universal Carceral Apparatus and Brown’s Pedagogical Kind, this study used the qualitative method, specifically phenomenology, to explore the school-based experiences of 27 Black male teachers across 14 schools in one urban school district. Participants perceived that their peers and school administrators positioned them to serve primarily as disciplinarians first and teachers second. The Black male teachers described how their colleagues expected them to redirect student misbehavior. They rejected the idea that they were magically constructed or that students who were deemed as misbehaving responded to the teachers’ redirection simply because they were Black men. Instead, participants described how they attended to students’ social and emotional development, thereby influencing their capacity to engage and manage perceived misbehavior. Implications for future research are presented at the conclusion of the study.


Urban education Black male teachers Teacher roles Policing Discipline 


  1. Alexander, B. K. (2006). Performing Black masculinity: Race, culture, and queer identity. Lanham, MD: Rowman Altamira.Google Scholar
  2. Baldridge, B. J. (2017). “It’s like this myth of the Supernegro”: Resisting narratives of damage and struggle in the neoliberal educational policy context. Race Ethnicity and Education, 20(6), 781–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bogdan, R. C., & Biklen, S. K. (2007). Qualitative research for education: An introduction to theories and methods (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.Google Scholar
  4. Boykin, K. (1996). One more river to cross: Black and gay in America. New York, NY: Anchor.Google Scholar
  5. Bridges, T. (2011). Towards a pedagogy of hip hop in urban teacher education. The Journal of Negro Education, 80(3), 25–338.Google Scholar
  6. Bristol, T. J. (2015a). Teaching boys: Towards a theory of gender-relevant pedagogy. Gender and Education, 27(1):53–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bristol, T. J. (2015b). Male teachers of color take a lesson from each other. Phi Delta Kappan, 97(2):36–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bristol, T. J. (2017). To be alone or in a group: An exploration into how the school-based experiences differ for Black male teachers across one urban school district. Urban Education. Scholar
  9. Brockenbrough, E. (2012). Emasculation blues: Black male teachers’ perspectives on gender and power in the teaching profession. Teachers College Record, 114(5), 1–43.Google Scholar
  10. Brockenbrough, E. (2015). “The discipline stop”: Black male teachers and the politics of urban school discipline. Education and Urban Society, 47, 499–522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brown, A. L. (2012). On human kinds and role models: A critical discussion about the African American male teacher. Educational Studies, 48(3), 296–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brown, J. W., & Butty, J. M. (1999). Factors that influence African American male teachers’ educational and career aspirations: Implications for school district recruitment and retention efforts. Journal of Negro Education, 68, 280–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bryan, N., & Milton Williams, T. (2017). We need more than just male bodies in classrooms: Recruiting and retaining culturally relevant Black male teachers in early childhood education. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 38(3), 209–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carey, R. L. (2017). “What am I gonna be losing?”: School culture and the family-based college-going dilemmas of Black and Latino adolescent boys. Education and Urban Society. Scholar
  15. Carter, P. L. (2005). Keepin’ it real: School success beyond Black and White. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking the concept. Gender and Society, 19(6), 829–859.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cooper, R., & Jordan, W. J. (2003). Cultural issues in comprehensive school reform. Urban Education, 38, 380–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  19. Cuban, L. (1991). History of teaching in social studies. In J. P. Shaver (Ed.), Handbook of research on social studies teaching and learning (pp. 197–209). New York, NY: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  20. Dee, T. S. (2005). A teacher like me: Does race, ethnicity, or gender matter? The American Economic Review, 95(2), 158–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). The Sage handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  22. Dumas, M. J., & Nelson, J. D. (2016). (Re)imagining Black boyhood: Toward a critical framework for educational research. Harvard Educational Review, 86(1), 27–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Duncan, A. (2010). Changing the HBCU narrative: From corrective action to creative investment. Durham, NC: Remarks by Secretary Arne Duncan at the HBCU symposium at the North Carolina Central University Centennial.Google Scholar
  24. Easton-Brooks, D., Lewis, C., & Zhang, Y. (2010). Ethnic-matching: The influence of African American teachers on the reading scores of African American students. National Journal of Urban Education and Practice, 3(1), 230–243.Google Scholar
  25. Eddy, C., & Easton-Brooks, D. (2011). Ethnic matching, school placement, and mathematics achievement of African American students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Urban Education, 46, 1280–1299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Foucault, M. (1979). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  27. Gershenzon, S., Holt, S. B., & Papageorge, N. W. (2016). Who believes in me? The effect of student-teacher demographic match on teacher expectations. Economics of Education Review, 52, 209–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gist, C. D. (2017). Voices of aspiring teachers of color: Unraveling the double bind in teacher education. Urban Education, 52, 927–956.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Goings, R. B., & Bianco, M. (2016). It’s hard to be who you don’t see: An exploration of black male high school students’ perspectives on becoming teachers. Urban Review, 48, 628–646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Haase, M. (2010). Fearfully powerful: Male teachers, social power and the primary school. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 18(2), 173–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Haddix, M. (2015). Cultivating racial and linguistic diversity in literacy teacher education: Teachers like me. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Howard, T. C., Flennaugh, T. K., & Terry, C. L., Sr. (2012). Black males, social imagery, and the disruption of pathological identities: Implications for research and teaching. The Journal of Educational Foundations, 26(1/2), 85.Google Scholar
  33. Kupchik, A. (2010). Homeroom security: School discipline in an age of fear. New York, NY: New York University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lett, J. (1990). Emics and etics: Notes on the epistemology of anthropology. In T. N. Headland, K. L. Pike, & M. Harris (Eds.), Emics and etics: The insider/outsider debate (Frontiers of anthropology, 7). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. Lewis, C. (2006). African American male teachers in public schools: An examination of three urban school districts. Teachers College Record, 108(2), 224–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lewis, C. W., & Toldson, I. A. (Eds.). (2013). Black male teachers: Diversifying the United States’ teacher workforce. Howard House, UK: Emerald Group Publishing.Google Scholar
  37. Lindsay, C. A., & Hart, C. M. D. (2017). Exposure to same-race teachers and student disciplinary outcomes for black students in North Carolina. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 39(3), 485–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lynn, M., Johnson, C., & Hassan, K. (1999). Raising the critical consciousness of African American students in Baldwin Hills: A portrait of an exemplary African American male teacher. Journal of Negro Education, 68(1), 42–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Martino, W. J. (2015). The limits of role modeling as a basis for critical multicultural education: The case of Black male teachers in urban schools. Multicultural Education Review, 7(1–2), 59–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mentor, M. (2016). Black male teachers speak: Narratives of corps members in the NYC teach for america program. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Columbia University.Google Scholar
  41. McNeil, L. M. (1986). Contradictions of control: School structure and school knowledge. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  42. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  43. Milner, H. R. (2016). A Black male teacher’s culturally responsive practices. The Journal of Negro Education, 85(4), 417–432. Scholar
  44. Motley, C. B. (1999). Equal justice under law: An autobiography. New York, NY: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  45. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). (2016). Number and percentage distribution of teachers in public and private elementary and secondary schools, by selected teacher characteristics: Selected years, 19871988 through 20112012. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved October 15, 2017 from
  46. Nelson, J. D. (2016). Relational teaching with Black boys: Strategies for learning at a single-sex middle school for boys of color in New York City. Teachers College Record, 118(6), 1–30.Google Scholar
  47. Nolan, K. (2011). Police in the hallways: Discipline in an urban high school. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pabon, A. (2016). Waiting for black superman: A look at a problematic assumption. Urban Education, 51(8), 915–939.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pabon, A. J. M. (2017). In hindsight and now again: Black male teachers’ recollections on the suffering of black male youth in US public schools. Race Ethnicity and Education, 20(6), 766–780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  51. Rezai-Rashti, G., & Martino, W. (2010). Black male teachers as role models: Resisting the homogenizing impulse of gender and racial affiliation. American Educational Research Journal, 47(1), 37–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Seidman, I. (2006). Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide for researchers in education and the social sciences (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  53. Shedd, C. (2015). Unequal city: Race, schools, and perceptions of injustice. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  54. Sibblis, C. (2014). Expulsion programs as colonizing spaces of exception. Race, Gender, and Class, 21(1/2), 64–81.Google Scholar
  55. Simmons, R., Carpenter, R., Ricks, J., Walker, D., Parks, M., & Davis, M. (2013). African American male teachers and African American students: Working subversively through hip-hop in three urban schools. The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 4(2), 69–86.Google Scholar
  56. Venter, E., & van Niekerk, L. J. (2011). Reconsidering the role of power, punishment and discipline in South African schools. Koers: Bulletin for Christian Scholarship, 76(2), 243–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wallace, D. (2017). Distinctiveness, deference and dominance in Black Caribbean fathers’ engagement with public schools in London and New York City. Gender and Education, 29(5), 594–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Warren, C. A. (2016). We Learn Through Our Struggles”: Nuancing notions of urban Black male academic preparation for postsecondary success. Teachers College Record, 118(6), 1–38.Google Scholar
  59. White, T. (2016). Teach for America’s paradoxical diversity initiative: Race, policy, and Black teacher displacement in urban schools. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24(16), 1–42.Google Scholar
  60. Woodson, A., & Pabon, A. (2016). “I’m none of the above”: Exploring themes of heteropatriarchy in the life histories of Black male educators. Equity and Excellence in Education, 49, 57–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Boston UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.The College of New RochelleNew RochelleUSA

Personalised recommendations