Study Finds Students Of All Races Prefer Teachers Of Color

Oct 9, 2016

By Anya Kamenetz

“Do you speak English?”

When Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng walked into his summer school classroom for the first time as a brand-new teacher, a student greeted him with this question. Nothing in his training had prepared him to address race and identity. But he was game, answering the student lightly, “Yes, I do, but this is a math class, so you don’t have to worry about it.”

“Oh my gosh, was that racist?” he says the girl asked, and quickly checked her own assumption: “‘That’s exactly like when I go into a store and people follow me around because I’m black.'”

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One comment on “Study Finds Students Of All Races Prefer Teachers Of Color”

  • I do not “prefer” anyone over anyone. I will tell you, however, that the teacher that impacted me most is an African man. Not an African American, but, rather a man from Africa. On his desk are pictures of his family. They stand, smiling, in front of a grass hut. His name is Gus. His last name, although short is hard for Americans to pronounce and he did not like to hear it mispronounced (call me Gus, he’d say). He is a short dark skinned man with a darker beard and too many teeth for his smile. He was so kind and smart that I try (my best) to emulate him with my students.

    The thing he did that caught my brain on fire??? I’ll tell you. He shared wonder with me. I sat for his Immunology class, his virology class, his mycology class, diagnostic bacteriology… But, even when I was not enrolled in one of his classes, when I’d walk past his lab, he’d excitedly call to me ( I can do his voice very well and in my head I am speaking in his voice…) He’d say “Jimmy jim, Jimmy jim, Jimmy jim….come come come….” and turn and rush back into his room. He never even looked to see if I was coming in behind him. He knew.

    Then, sitting on a dissection tray, or under a microscope, or on a monitor was a thing of wonder. He’d say “look, Jimmy jim… look”… And I’d look, and think, and wonder. Never once was he “above me” or “lecturing”. We stood shoulder to shoulder and shared wonder. He was/is so brilliant and I am not. He had seen the whole world, from a dirt floored grass thatched hut to a PhD from a major university; I had not. He, at no point, was anything other than an exuberant, excited man who knew more than me and generously shared himself. Eventually, he sat on my thesis committee and changed my life.

    I wouldn’t care if he was green.

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