Racial microaggressions in everyday work life of Black special educators in PK-12 schools




Walker-Anderson, Mishka-Sheree Yaneke

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The racialized job experiences of Black special educators are often not the dominant narrative when explaining their underrepresentation in the field of special education. Currently, African American teachers make up only 8.5% of the special education teaching staff in U.S. public schools, while African American students comprise 18.5% of students with disabilities served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Scholars have not focused on the quotidian racial microaggressions that African American prekindergarten through Grade 12 (PK-12) special educators encounter and the impact on their work, recruitment, retention, and underrepresentation. Research has suggested hiring and retaining African American special educators may improve African American student outcomes, by reducing special education disproportionality, high school dropout rates, academic underachievement, underemployment, and incarceration and by improving school performance and graduation rates. This dissertation was a case study in a northeastern major metropolitan city and suburb of 13 Black special educators’ experiences with racial microaggressions, using a framework and methodology of dis/ability critical race studies and Afro pessimism. Three research questions guided this dissertation: What are the racial microaggressions African American special educators report they encounter at their PK-12 schools? How do racial microaggressions affect African American special educators’ classroom teaching, job performance, job satisfaction, and retention? How do African American special educators cope with racial microaggressions at their workplace? Individual interviews indicated all of the Black special educators endured racial microaggressions, and most experienced a coupling of racism and ableism. The study provides evidence that racial and disability microaggressions are a constant occurrence in the work life of Black special educators.


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