How to help black boys afraid of ‘acting white’

A black head teacher told me a story of his early days at a failing inner-city school. The job was a thankless one and everybody was waiting anxiously for the arrival of the new ‘super-head’ (the school had gone through three leaders in two years). In the playground it was leaked that the new head was an old-school type from Jamaica.

During his first encounter with the students, they asked him how many children he had. He told them he had one and that she lived with him and his wife.

‘No sir, how many do you have in Jamaica?’ they asked. He replied: ‘None.’ They jeered, ‘Oh sir you’re not a yard man, not a real Jamaican — you’re acting white.’