STUDY: Prospective Teachers See Black Students as More Angry and Hostile Than White Students


Have you ever heard of the “angry black man/woman” stereotype? You know the one that alleges black people are quicker to anger than other people? It has been a frequent topic of discussion in every arena from law enforcement, to reality TV, to the workplace. It may be time to have that conversation in education as well.

A new study from North Carolina State University has found that aspiring teachers are much more likely to view black faces as “angry” than white faces. Additionally, they were much more likely to view behaviors of black children as hostile when compared to white children even when the behavior is similar:

Results indicated that emotions in Black faces were less accurately recognized than emotions in White faces; Black faces were more likely to be seen as angry even when they were not, compared to White faces; and boys’ misbehaviors were perceived as more hostile than those of White boys. Together, these results consistently suggest that racialized emotion-related perceptions may enter the classroom with preservice teachers.

The study was conducted by using 40 students who planned to become teachers in the near future. They were shown photos of black and white people and asked to assign an emotion. They were also shown videos of inappropriate school behavior and asked to rate the “hostility.”

Overall, it was found that the anger and hostility of blacks were consistently overrated by the participants. This is consistent with current theories about unconscious bias and “racialized emotion-related perceptions.”

The implications of this extend beyond theory. Recent data has shown that black students are penalized more harshly than white students for the same behaviors, which supports the results from this research.

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.