Recently, I was asked to contribute to the Christian Educators Diversity Alliance (CEDA)’s monthly blog. Having stepping back into the Head of School role during the middle of a pandemic in July 2020, I had not made the time to write and publish an article. However, as Black History Month was drawing to a close, I decided it was important to highlight how—even in 21st century America—recognizing both the struggles and accomplishments of African Americans is still greatly needed.
To prove my point, I shared one of the conversations I have had with 8th grade students over the past three years —most recently, this fall at Brookstone Schools—based around a Barna Poll featured in my textbook In Whose Image?
Released in November 2016, the poll asks teens ages 13-18 to identify what is very important to their sense of self.
Having my students complete this exercise and share their answers aloud, I then show them the Barna poll results separated out by race:
Given the very different top 5 answers, I pose the question to my students “Why do you think African American teens value education, race, faith, and family almost equally?”
As I have helped facilitate this conversation, few of my non-African American students have been able to address the reasons why black students answer the statement “My _______ is very important to my sense of self” so differently.
Nevertheless, as we take a deeper look into the poll, a profound understanding of the challenges African American teens still face in our nation quickly comes to the forefront, along with several thought-provoking questions:
With continued racism in our country, do African American teens have to think more about educational success and race than their white counterparts?
Is the Christian faith, the African-American Church and the family more important to African American teens because of the wisdom, strength, and support they have provided to overcome prejudice and racism historically in America (slavery, Jim Crow laws, etc.)?
As an aside, a 2020 Barna Poll with African American adults affirmed the importance of the Gospel in the Black Experience:
Given the continued racial divisions in our nation, Christian schools must encourage and foster community to provide these important conversations among diverse populations. For as students consider different views from their own and learn from others’ perspectives, empathy, compassion and understanding can grow in their hearts—a diverse, culturally engaging, Gospel-centered environment many Millennial parents are seeking for their children.
That is why I am thankful for Diversity Directors and Christian School leaders around the country who are engaging in this important and difficult work. For as Christian schools address this generation’s cultural moment, students will be better prepared to speak into the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion with the Gospel–viewing themselves and others as image-bearers of God.