Fierce Boss Ladies

American Teachers Have Higher Expectations Of White And Asian American Students And Lower Ones For Black And Latino Ones

 “You teach English?”

I look up at the young man in front of me, white with shaggy brown hair, and late for class.

It was my first day teaching adjunct (part-time and untenured) at a new community college, and the students near the front of the room stopped talking because the young man was now standing in the aisle down the side of the room, looking me up and down.

“You teach English?

Photo courtesy of author

As opposed to Spanish. I knew what he meant.

“Yes, I teach English. Find a seat.” I pointed to one of the few empty seats near the back of the room.

It was only my second semester teaching at the post-secondary level, and I was teaching two classes at two different colleges, running out of one class in one county, and driving like hell on the freeway to another college in another county. It’s what part-time instructors do to make ends meet. Before going back to college, I was a preschool teacher. Preschoolers, I was learning, had better manners. Pre-schoolers almost always liked me. They didn’t judge me based on my brown skin or make assumptions about me based on my Spanish surname.

In all my years of teaching at the college level since that first semester out of high school I’ve learned that most students aren’t as overtly racist as this guy, but being a five foot morena has made it difficult for some students to see me as an authority figure. I could blame my gender, my size or the color of my skin, but the problem isn’t me at all.

The problem is a lack of people of color in academia, a lack of people of all shades, shapes, and sizes deemed worthy as being seen as authority figures in the ivory tower.

Photo courtesy of author

Latinas and Black women (as of Fall 2016) make up only two percent of the full-time faculty teaching in degree-granting higher education institutions (two year and four year) – just two percent of Black and Latina professors teach full-time with benefits. Meanwhile, white men professors make up 41% of the professors teaching full-time in higher ed, and white women make up 35%. Worse yet, during the 2016-2017 school year, 69% of students in California attending community colleges, state schools and universities identified as non-white when only 32% of the tenured faculty (full-time instructors who can be more accessible to students and their needs because they are not driving the freeway between schools) were people of color.

This startling lack of equity in the classroom shapes the minds of young people, coloring who they see as credible authority figures and who they view as worthy of being educated or educable.

If this were a classroom lesson, this is where I would stop talking and ask the class “what questions should we be asking right now?”

Why aren’t there more people of color teaching in two and four-year colleges and universities?

Why are there so few black and brown women teaching?

Why are the majority of black and brown women teaching part-time and not being hired in full-time tenure track positions?

Why are there so many more men teaching in higher ed?

Does not having teachers who look like us send a message that we don’t belong, that we aren’t worthy of education, or even educable?

Let’s focus on answering the final question.

According to researchers Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng and Peter F. Halpern, Two meta-analysis (examination of data) that were completed within twenty years of each other both found that teachers routinely have higher expectations of White and Asian American students and lower expectations of Black and Latino students. This finding is particularly troubling when 41% of professors in higher ed are white men and 35% are white women. This finding is even more troubling when you pair it with the evidence that students perform better when taught by a teacher of their own race/ethnicity . The fact that teachers routinely have higher expectations of White and Asian American students is potentially devastating to our youth when you understand that students of color make up the majority of students in seats in schools (all levels) across the country.

I repeat, students of color make up the majority of the students in schools in America; meanwhile, teachers of color only make up 20% of the teacher workforce.

In spite of the dearth in Latinas teaching in higher education, we do exist, and we teach all different subjects, not just Spanish. We teach English, gender studies, Chicano studies, food studies, border studies, math and science, but getting there wasn’t easy. Many Latina professors teaching in higher education are first-generation college students, come from mixed-status families, or relatively low-income families. The majority began higher education in less-affordable community colleges, much more affordable institutions that make it more possible for low-income students to spend time exploring courses to develop a passion and find a major. In the classroom, many Latina profesoras have encountered racism, experienced micro-aggressions from colleagues, and just generally had to work harder to prove they are smart and not simply diversity hires.

Getting a full-time, tenure track job in higher education is not easy for anyone because there are never enough positions for all the people who want one, but as the statistics have shown it’s particularly difficult for black and brown women. Therefore, some of the profesoras that you will meet below hold full-time positions and some do not. One is on fellowship, writing her dissertation, and another is actively seeking teaching positions, but each profesora brings her culture, cultural experiences and knowledge, and a particularly important intersectional representation to higher education that can help her better see all of her students and their potential.

Dr. Michelle Téllez

Photo courtesy of Michelle Téllez

Doctora Téllez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona. Her areas of teaching include Chicana feminisms, U.S./Mexico border studies, gender and migration and Chican@/Latinx popular culture. Téllez holds a B.A. in Sociology with an emphasis in Chicana/o Studies from UCLA (1996), a Bilingual Elementary teaching credential from San Diego State University (1998), a Master’s in Sociology and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University (2000) and a Ph.D. in Education from Claremont Graduate University (2005), and she is a first-generation college student.

In an interview with Fierce by Mitú, Dr. Téllez said that her Mexican-born mother received a 6th grade education in a small town in Jalisco, Mexico, saying, “Like many first-generation students, I struggled with feelings of not belonging that often continued into the professoriate. I remember watching all of my peers’ families moving them into the dorms my first days at UCLA while I was already working and mopping floors at the cafeteria because I needed to find employment right away.”

While getting her bachelor’s degree, Téllez only had one female professor and no professors of color. In her early days of teaching she was never assumed to be the professor when walking into a classroom, and even her own colleagues had difficulty calling her Doctor. Still, Tellez asserts, “I come to the classroom with a commitment to a non-hierarchical practice of engagement but in a very competitive and patriarchal environment, it is a challenge.”

When asked to comment on the fact that Latinas only make up 2% of full-time college professors, and that the majority of the Latinas teaching in higher ed, teach part-time, she said, “It’s devastating, honestly, because I think about my entire journey and I remember every single peer who dropped out along the way.  I don’t think it’s only about representation but about shaping knowledge production inside and outside of the university.”

Go here for a list of scholarly articles written by Tellez on the topic of gender rights at the US/Mexico border.

(Soon Dr.) Marlen Ríos-Hernández

Photo courtesy of Marlen Ríos-Hernández (center)

Marlen Ríos-Hernández is a PhD Candidate in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Riverside. She has taught Introduction to Chicano Studies as a Lecturer and has worked as a Teaching Assistant for Ethnic Studies courses from 2014-2018. Ríos-Hernández is the recpient of
of a $20,000 dissertation fellowship from the American Association of University Women. 

The focus of Ríos-Hernández’s doctoral dissertation is Latinx in punk rock, “We Were There’: From Alice Bag to Emos The War on Punk and Sonic Latinidades in the Time of Ronald Reagan and Other Decadas Podridas,” traces queer Chicana/Latina participants in the Los Angeles/Southern California and Latino diasporic punk scenes from 1977-2008.

When asked if she is a first-generation college student, Ríos-Hernández, said, “Damn, right! I grew up in a Spanish speaking household in Huntington Park, Ca. My parents’ access to education was different than ours so all three of us Rios-Hernandez kids were raised to speak Spanish at home to perhaps retain aspects of my parents’ culture which would quickly become a little overwhelming, for me at least, while navigating the American education system.”

Even after graduating high school and attending community college, Ríos-Hernández didn’t have plans to pursue a degree, she said, “One day, I was walking through campus when a young brown woman tabling for UCLA stopped me and explained that I could transfer. It had never occurred to me that a young woman like me could attend a school like UCLA.” Ríos-Hernández, who always introduces herself to her class by showing her class a picture of her parents said, ” first and foremost I am the daughter of immigrants and I owe my work ethic and pedagogy to my parents.”

When asked to consider the fact that Latinas only make up 2% of full-time college professors, and that the majority of the Latinas teaching in higher ed, teach part-time, Ríos-Hernández said,” My first reaction is anger. I have seen many colegas, femtors, and mentoras be treated unfairly and issues of retention for junior faculty just doesn’t get enough attention. My second reaction however is motivation. While 2% is the number, the bodies and labor behind that 2% far exceeds any quantitative calculation. The Latina academics that inspire me to stay in academia are mujeres that to this day are not afraid to be themselves in front of the classroom and the rest of the academic world. With my PhD in hand, I intend to help change that number. Movimentos don’t just start from nowhere.”

Dr. Mireya Loza


Doctora Mireya Loza is an assistant professor at New York University where she teaches courses in Food Studies. Dr. Loza is also the author of
Defiant Braceros: How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial, Sexual and Political Freedo (UNC Press).

Loza double-majored as an undergraduate student and holds a BA in anthropology and Latino/a studies from University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and she has two Master’s degrees, one in Anthropology and the other in Public Humanities.  She earned her doctorate in American Studies at Brown University.

Loza who, like the others, is a first-generation college student. A daughter of Mexican immigrant parents who wanted her to go to college had to learn about how to navigate the system and find help on her own, she said, “Figuring out the college application process was a challenge and I had to rely on programs to learn to navigate the process.”

When asked to comment on the fact that Latinas only make up 2% of full-time college professors, and that the majority of the Latinas teaching in higher ed, teach part-time, she said, “I experience it profoundly, when I look around and see very few people who look or sound like the people I grew up with. I’ve also experienced an extreme generosity from senior tenured Latinas from across the nation, who have given me a lot of guidance and support.  “

Dr. Wanda Alarcón

Photo courtesy of Wanda Alarcon

Doctora Wanda Alarcón is a Lecturer in the English Department at UCLA where she is teaching a course she designed called, “Butch-Femme Worlds in LGBTQ Literature,” under the topic, “Queer Literatures and Cultures after 1970.”  After attending Coastline Community College in Fountain Valley, Alarcón earned a BA in music from Cal State Long Beach, an MA in English from at Binghamton University, and a PhD from UC Berkley.

Rooted in her undergraduate work in music, Dr. Alarcón is particularly expert in the field of sound studies. She began to think about sound critically after reading a short story by Luis Alfaro, and she explains sound studies this way, “How we learn to listen is critical — we can learn to tune out the very same things we do not wish to see about the world we live in — racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia — and therefore we must interrogate our listening practices.  A simple exercise is to think about the way we feel when someone speaks a language we don’t understand.  Is the way someone communicates aurally threatening to us?”

When we asked Alarcón about the fact that Latinas only make up 2% of full-time college professors, and that the majority of the Latinas teaching in higher ed, teach part-time, she discussed the inequitable workload placed on the few Latina professors in college departments:

” As a graduate student, there was only one tenured Chicana professor in the entire college of Letters and Sciences. So, to approach this professor about serving on my dissertation committee meant that she could easily have said no, as I would be one of at least twenty other doctoral candidates she was advising. All of the Chicana graduate students across campus naturally sought out her advisement, yet from a labor point of view, it’s easy to see the deep inequity. It’s simply not sustainable. To devise a way to be fair — to students and to yourself — is a hidden part of the job many Chicanas and Latinas do when there is not a critical mass of colleagues to share the work–let alone to simply have colleagues who recognize your field of study and why it matters!”


Recommend this story by clicking the share button below!

Notice any corrections needed? Please email us at

Despite Obstacles, Latinos And POC Have Been Getting Into College Without Help From SAT Rigging Aunt Becky And Her White Privilege


Despite Obstacles, Latinos And POC Have Been Getting Into College Without Help From SAT Rigging Aunt Becky And Her White Privilege

According to the Pew Research Center, there are fewer and fewer Latino students are going to college. In fact, despite how rapidly the Latino community is growing in the U.S., a widening education gap lands us at half as likely to hold a college degree as non-Latino white adults according to The Education Trust.

New York City school districts have the largest Black and Latino enrollment rates in the country but offer the fewest programs for gifted and talented children.

Recent surveys show that 10 school districts with 88 percent to 96 percent black and Hispanic enrollment have either one or zero K-5 Gifted and Talented programs.

In a recent interview with  Tai Abrams, a 2005 alumna of the Bronx HS of Science whose alumni list boasts eight Nobel and eight Pulitzer prize winners called the statistic “educational genocide.”

“It’s like killing off a group of people who are not getting the quality of education they deserve, and it’s a crime,” Abrams told the New York Post.

This is the kind of lack of educational nourishment that underlines the need for programs like affirmative actions.

People can whine and rant about it all they’d like but POC have a right to affirmative action. The latest arrest of Academy Award nominee Felicity Huffman and actress Lori Loughlin, best known for her role as Aunt Becky on “Full House” are proof of this fact.

In headline breaking news the two actresses were revealed to be part of a college cheating scam which gave their kids an unfair advantage that garnered them access to some of the country’s top universities, including Yale and Stanford. This is all despite the fact that the children of these two women, as well as those of over 30 other celebrities and CEOs, were already riding on an enormous wave of white privilege that gives so many white students a leg up in the college application process each year.

Never fear fellow Latinos and POC. While most of our parents might not currently be able to fork over a load of cash to pay and have someone else beef up our SAT exam scores, there are ways to beat the system. And that’s purely on smarts and know-how. Just how abuela would want you to do.

If you’ve already completed your college applications and you met all the deadlines, know that there are several things that you can do to improve your application post-submission. There are also cosas que puede hacer that are just for you because this is a time when you also need to practice some self-care and to remember that you are worthy.

1. Get back to taking care of yourself


Now that your applications are in and you’re not multi-tasking ad nauseam, you should take care of your mental health. Get back to sleeping seven to eight hours a night and cut back on junk food. Get back to making and eating actual meals when hungry rather than snacking on empty calories. Get back to your exercise routine, quit staying up too late, and research some mindful techniques to help you through the stressful waiting period.

2. Start researching scholarships


There are scholarships for everything and everyone. Scholarships for first-generation college students, Dreamers, musicians, people who wear glasses, and on, and on. This McDonald’s Scholarship is seeking to give money to Latino students. The due date is February 4! Looking for other kinds of scholarships? Check out this directory.

3. Double-check letters of recommendation


Most colleges are using online tools to collect your application and recommendation letters, and most colleges will not turn you away for a late letter. Go to all sites and confirm that all your letters of recommendation have been turned in. Contact any teachers who haven’t turn in letters by sending a cheerful e-mail letting them know that their letter is not showing in the portal, say something like, “Dear Ms. Lopez, I went to the UC Davis portal and did not see your letter of recommendation. Please let me know if there’s something else you need from me.”

 4. Check your FAFSA


If you haven’t filled out the FASFA, you need to do it now. If you have filled it out be sure to make sure all information is filled out correctly to minimize annoying delays. You CAN fill out the FAFSA and provide tax information even if your parents are undocumented. Simply enter 000-00-0000 for their Social Security number. Do no enter their TIN or tax identification numbers that they use to file their taxes!

5. Do more research on each college you hope to attend


In order to make the best decision when you start getting those acceptances that we know you’ll get, you should start researching each college, and the program in the college you intend to major. You should also research student body demographics. It might be very difficult to go to a school that has very few Latinx students.

6. Research your intended major


It’s important to have some kind of idea how much you’ll be able to make with a four-year degree if you plan to go to graduate school, and how much that might cost, and weigh that information with how much money, if any, you’re willing to borrow.

7. Be realistic about what you can afford


Sure there’s financial aid and scholarships, but student aid doesn’t always cover all costs. Do you really want to go into debt? We now know that loan companies have been targeting people of color and veterans, hyping the promise of education and taking advantage of people who have very little money to spare.

8. Have a real discussion with your parents about how much they can pay


I had a student who got into more than one four-year colleges straight out of high school. She was all set to study medicine when her parents told her that they couldn’t afford the tuition. Before she applied and got in, they hadn’t quite understood how expensive college would be, even with the aid that she got. She was, needless to say, devastated and she didn’t quite know what to do.

 9. If you’re concerned about funding, consider community college for the first two years.


That student that I was telling you about, well, she wound up staying with her parents and going to the local community college from which she’s about to graduate and transfer to a UC. As a result, she saved thousands and thousands of dollars doing her general education and preparing for her major at a two-year. While I’m on the subject of community college, you should know that students who go to community college have better persistent rates and get better grades than students who go straight to a four-year. Most California community colleges have Puente programs which provide extra support for Latinx students.

10. Don’t sabotage everything because you’re afraid


You’ve heard of those students who dropped out of high school during the last month or two of senior year or the student who didn’t turn in that last assignment and didn’t graduate? Human nature is a funny thing, and sometimes we’re afraid of success. Gente, we’re about to take over this place, echale ganas!

11. Spend some time reflecting on whether you’re sure you’re ready to leave home.


Many students drop out of school during the first year because they weren’t ready to leave home in the first place. It’s a lot to expect for every single young person in America to be ready to move to a new city and go to college on their own at just eighteen. As a nation, we need to get better at realizing that. Some students feel they have failed when this happened, but there are many different paths to getting an education. If you decide to stay home and attend a community college, remember that authors, Oscar Hijuelos, and Amy Tan went to community college, and so did musician Alice Bag, that one director of Star Wars, George Lucas, and Tom Hanks.

12. Keep in mind that you might not be ready today, but that you may well be in three months.


As you reflect on your readiness to move out of your house and into a dorm, remember that young people grow and change very fast. Maybe you feel mostly ready but your feeling reticent too. Keep in mind that feeling a bit afraid doesn’t mean you aren’t ready now, and how you feel today might change a lot in few months.

13. Try not to be mean to your parents


If you’re pretty sure that you’ll be going off to a four-year away from home, you’re at that age and maturity level where your parents are making you crazy. Being impatient with them or mean won’t make you feel better. Take it from me (mi híjo is on his way to college tambíen), your parents are probably profoundly sad that you’ll be leaving home. Spend some time trying to understand how they feel and compórtate bíen.

14. Start donating things you’ve outgrown


When you do move out of your parents house and into a dorm, you can’t take everything with you. Do your parents a favor and start getting rid of things piled up in your room and closet that you’ve outgrown or don’t need. Pass down things to your hermanx that they could use and donate the rest.

15. Help your hermanx be successful in school


Now that you have what it takes to be successful in school and apply for four-year colleges, help your sibs. Encourage them to stay focused, to manage their time wisely. Talk to them about the importance of learning and having a strong GPA. Give them study tips, tutor them in subjects they may need improvement.

16. Write thank you notes


Studies show that practicing gratitude is good for you. It’s also good for the teachers, mentors, family members, and friends who have helped you through the college application process. Take some time writing anyone who helped a genuine, heartfelt thank you note.

17. If you work, save money.


This one seems obvious, but it might be one of the hardest things to do, BUT if you’re not supporting yourself or anyone else like your parents probably are, you need to start saving money. Set aside a little money each month that you can take with you to college. You’ll need it! Here are some apps that could help you get started.

18. Read


I’ve noticed that one skill that students struggle with in my college English classes is reading — reading material that is at a college level and so much of it. You will be assigned an astounding amount of reading in college. The best way to prepare for that is to keep reading — read anything and look up any words you don’t know that seem important to understanding. Looking up words will increase your vocabulary, and I’ve taught many students frustrated by their vocabulary.

19. Plan your summer


If you have to work all summer, you should plan your summer carefully. Be sure to plan a trip or two with friends, especially those who are also going off to college or those you won’t see when you’re away. Plan out time you’ll spend with your familia. You’ll feel better leaving for school, if you spent quality time with everyone before hand.

20. Try not to stress out


Stressing out won’t help you. Try not to check your e-mail for acceptance info too obsessively. Go on a walk in the fresh air, cuddle your favorite pet, tell your mamá, or favorite tía, what’s on your mind, and remember that getting accepted, or not, to the college of your choice does not determine your self-worth.

Notice any corrections needed? Please email us at

Preschool Students Are Doing Active Shooter Drills And I Guess This Is The New Normal Now


Preschool Students Are Doing Active Shooter Drills And I Guess This Is The New Normal Now

Active shooter drills at schools are the new normal for today’s youngest generation.

Yesterday, reports of teachers at an Indiana school being mock executed with pellet guns during a school-shooter drill sparked dismay when details of the event came out. During a drill, teachers were lined up and shot execution-style with airsoft rifles and told: “This is what happens if you just cower and do nothing.” The incident has sparked debate concerning the necessity of these drills that have become a grim routine in class schedules.

At Casa De Niños in Yuma, Arizona, teachers have had to consider the effects of mandatory active shooter drills on their preschoolers.

montessoritecate / Instagram

A year after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings, which took place last February, schools have ramped up their efforts to train students on how to defend themselves against gunmen. Police officers, sometimes even teachers, play the role of a shooter banging on classroom windows and shooting at teachers or students while children are prompted to apply previous lessons on such events. They barricade doors, dodge fake bullets by running in zigzagged lines, and use “self-defense tools” like lunchboxes and backpacks.

The preschool, which includes children as young as one year old, requires its educators to take part in training once a month.

montessoritecate / Instagram

Last year, CBS profiled the preschool’s active shooter drill practices shedding light onto the harrowing lessons our nation’s students are being faced with.

Footage from the report shows teachers as they defend themselves and students from a pseudo-active shooter.

The video shows two drills. The first sees the teachers as they barricade classrooms, and instruct other teachers (standing in the place of their students) to “get down” and hide from windows and doors. At one point a shooter walks through and shoots at students with a gun that charges off a realistic gunshot and smoke. The last drill shows the students. Preschool-aged children shove tables and chairs in front of doorways and draw curtains close. During this segment of training, they are taught that the gunman is called a “stranger” and that they are taking part in a game. The lights are turned off, and much like a game of hide-and-seek, they are told to stay quiet and keep out of sight.

While many of the kids appear amused by the presence of the camera at the mark of the filmed drill, some of their sly smiles quickly fade to alarm as the drill takes place.

In the CBS report, Jessica Alcantara, a teacher at Casa De Niños, attempted to make sense of the need for active shooter drills. “Back in the days when I grew (and) I was in school, that’s the safest place ever. It’s like am I really safe in school?”

According to the CBS report, since 1999 sixteen percent of school shootings took place at institutions where preschoolers and or kindergarteners were present.

CBS Evening News / Youtube

In 1999, soon after the Columbine massacre, the practice of active shooter drills began to crop up at schools around the country. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that during the 2015-2016 school year, more than 90 percent of public schools across the country took part in lockdown drills. According to the CBS report, two-thirds of public schools implement the drills.

The effectiveness of active-shooter drills can’t totally be measured, but studies have begun to reveal that they do have downsides.

History / Instagram

In fact, the month before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, the school had taken part in an active-shooter drill. Reports suggest that shooter was able to use the drills to his advantage when he carried out his attack.

Moreover, there’s the matter of time and resources. At Casa De Niños, the school spends one thousand dollars a month on training– that’s a budget that could otherwise be spent on upgrades to school facilities such as textbooks, science and art programs, and hot lunch programs for low-income students.

Downsides also include childhood trauma.

Decades ago, millions of schoolchildren in the 1950s were subject to civil defense drills like “duck and cover.” The drills required students to crouch under their desks in preparation for potential nuclear attacks. According to Timeline, teachers at the time reported an uptick in the depiction of mushroom clouds and death in their students artwork and research studies revealed that at the close of the 1950s, 60 percent of U.S. children reported having nightmares related to nuclear war.

The schoolchildren of today’s school shooter generation are subjected to similar fear-based realities.

In 2018, a Pew Research survey revealed that 57 percent of U.S. high school-aged students live in fear of a shooting taking place at their school. This information coincides with the National Institute of Mental Health study that reported 32 percent of 13-to-18-year-olds live with anxiety disorders with the median age of origin being age six.

Videos like the one of the students at Casa de Niños beg the question of what harm active shooter drills can cause younger generations. Yes, their intended efforts may keep children safe, but very well could be harming their childhood.

Read:Fox News Host Mocks Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Spanish Pronunciation Of Her Name As “Latina Thing”

Notice any corrections needed? Please email us at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *