Microaggressions Against Black IEP Students

Most of you know I’m all in, as far as working harder to educate others, and my own personal biases as far as racism. And, I have a platform. I have been using that platform and will continue to do so. From the series of Race Listening Sessions this summer, I gathered up a list.

I’m personally trying to slow down in my interactions, being more intentional. My own ‘issues’ make me impulsive at times. I’m trying harder at ‘think before you speak.’

racist microaggressions at iep meetings

Think Before You Speak

One main goal of the series was to encourage white people, particularly those on IEP teams, to listen and learn and examine their personal biases and (hopefully) eliminate them from future encounters. I personally wanted the listener to have concrete, actionable items to examine. So I combed through the videos and the comments left by some Black parents on the videos and came up with this list.

I add in that preface because of this–I am expecting kickback. Accountability feels like a personal attack when you’re not ready to deal with being held accountable. I get that. Been there! But the bottom line is this, don’t. Just don’t.

Read the list, or don’t. But this is for those who are interested in the journey to examine their own biases. It is not for you to email me and say “Hey, I’m white and my son was denied an FBA too!

I know this. I know white people have IEP struggles. However, the statistics don’t lie–Black children are suspended, expelled, etc. at much higher rates than their white peers. Yes, white families are denied supports and services. But it happens to Black families much more frequently and only because they are Black/Brown.

  • microassault is a “verbal or nonverbal attack meant to hurt the intended victim through name-calling, avoidant behavior, or purposeful discriminatory actions.” Example: Students wear Confederate flag clothing.
  • microinsult is an insensitive communication that demeans someone’s racial identity, signaling to people of color that “their contributions are unimportant.” Example: A teacher corrects the grammar only of Hispanic children.
  • microinvalidation involves negating or ignoring the “psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of a person of color.” Example: An Asian American student from the U.S. is asked where she was born, which conveys the message that she is not really an American.

Ok, here we go. It all comes down to: Stop, and THINK before you speak. Would you say the same thing or do the same thing if this was a white family in your IEP meeting?

Note that this is not an exhaustive list and will be updated as time goes on. I have to review dozens of hours of video, and I’m sure I missed some.

You can watch all the videos by clicking the image below.

race and disabilities

Racist Microaggressions at IEP Meetings

  1. Acting surprised when a Father shows up to an IEP Meeting.
  2. If Mom arrives first, assuming that Dad will not be joining her or that Dad is not in the child’s life.
  3. Assuming that the child is not on a traditional diploma path, regardless of age or disability.
  4. Assuming that the child is not interested in working but instead will live off of SSDI.
  5. This one is huge: Assuming WON’T instead of thinking “can’t.”
  6. Denying FBAs when a parent asks for them.
  7. Black students, males, in particular, are diagnosed with IDD in very disproportionate numbers.
  8. Are you presuming competence? Or are you presuming incompetence?
  9. Black students tend to receive fewer and less thorough evaluations and assessments than their white peers. Why are you denying an evaluation?
  10. Black students receive fewer supports and services than their white peers. Think of a white student that is similarly situated as the Black student’s IEP you are looking at. Are the supports and services the same?
  11. Black students are disproportionately treated with punitive results (suspensions, expulsions) for behaviors than their white peers. Have you considered supportive alternatives?
  12. Assuming that the Black parent(s) is not interested in PTA, parent training, parent networking, volunteering, or other school involvement opportunities.
  13. Assuming that the child gets free/reduced lunch.
  14. Otherwise assuming that the family is poor and needs handouts.
  15. Well-intended, but condescending or patronizing comments (and no touching!) about the child’s appearance, particularly hair.
  16. Assuming a religion (not all Black people are Muslim)
  17. Assuming an ethnicity (Like a Latina mom is automatically Mexican or from Puerto Rico)
  18. Assigning learning disabilities to not knowing the English language; many times English is the child’s primary language
  19. Assuming the parent’s profession (IE, not all Mexican men pick mushrooms and the women don’t all clean hotel rooms)
  20. Assuming that parents are heterosexual (yes, all colors can identify with all sexualities!)
  21. Asking about skin or race, IE “Why are you so light and your sister is so dark?” or assuming that all Muslims are very dark, etc.
  22. Pointing out errors to Black or Brown students more frequently than white students
  23. Making white students group “leaders” more often than Black students
  24. Making assumptions such as ‘all Black students excel at sports’ or ‘all Asian students excel at math.’
  25. Assuming that the Black student lives in a city.

These are just 25 that I grabbed from our chats. You can watch the full video series on the Facebook page for now (will be on the blog soon!). In the meantime, here is a great printable list I found.

And, here is a list of LBGTQ microaggressions.