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Travis Bristol was just 22 when he arrived at Manhattan Hunter Science High School in September 2004, armed with a bachelor’s from Amherst, a master’s from Stanford, and a passion for introducing New York City 10th graders to the intellectual thrills of Candide, Oedipus Rex, and Othello. But by late October, school administrators were leaning on Bristol—their only black teacher—for something else: what they saw as his skill at managing teenagers—specifically, boys of color.

When a colleague couldn’t get her class under control, several boys who had been branded as “troublemakers” were reassigned to Bristol. “There was this assumption that I could manage them,” he says. “I was able to do that not because I was a black male, but because I was getting to know the students and designing content that was engaging and rigorous. The students weren’t the problem.”

Bristol soon learned that other teachers like him felt similarly typecast.

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Sara Rimer, Director, Research Communications at Boston University
Sara Rimer

Sara Rimer can be reached at srimer@bu.edu.

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