Baltimore Teacher Exposes Racist Roots of Labels Like ‘Slow’ That Are Assigned to Black Students

A Baltimore, Md., teacher turned a discussion about Brown v. Board of Education  into a lesson about how Black students in integrated classrooms were labeled “retarded” or “slow” because teachers were unable to relate to them.

Southwest Baltimore Charter 8th-grade teacher Valencia Clay, entered the national spotlight after a video of her encouraging one of her students to love their dark skin went viral.

The empowering 9-year educator returns with a new video tackling how white educators’ inability to teach Black students perpetuated stereotypes and myths about Black intelligence. The damage has had a lasting impact that “right now our minds have been manipulated to carry on labels like ‘retarded’, ‘slow,'” she explains in the Wednesday, Feb. 1 video.

“They couldn’t do well on the test and they couldn’t sit still,” she says. “The teacher could not manage these little Black boys and girls, so they labeled them retarded. And they put them in their own separate class away from the rest of kids.”

Clay believes it isn’t enough to just acknowledge the issue. She urges her students to stop calling their peers demeaning names because it continues a cycle of trivializing the learning disabilities of others.

“And what we do, we continue to let it happen because we hear these things and we perpetuate them,” Clay tells her students. “We are each other. We are one. When you say someone in our school is slow, you’re calling yourself slow. Cause guess who else thinks of us as one? The oppressors.”

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