I took to the internet to crowd source some info of my own. I asked a few people what they thought. Here are my results to the question "do you think you would have learned more/performed better with a teacher that shared your ethnicity/gender" The results are as follows:
Black Female - No
Jewish Male - No
Latino (Mexican) Male - No
Asian (Korean) Female - No
White Female - No
Black (African) Male - No
I also haven't found a single teacher of the +50 teachers I asked yesterday that agreed with the impact on performance in particular. Many felt that it was a bit of a cop out and not that different from much of the teacher blaming that happens today. Some thought that the argument is uncomfortably similar to old segregationist thinking. Regardless of what you believe, it does raise interesting questions. Is blaming the teacher for being too white to teach the kids the same as blaming the kids for being too ethnic to learn? It makes the argument seem very patronizing and condescending depending on how you look at it.
All of this is strictly talking about the impact on performance and the numbers, the data if you will. The hard science. On the softer side, most people agree about the importance of seeing people that look like you achieving, learning, and being successful. For people of color in particular, I think teachers of color are critical to letting everyone know that we are more than just what is depicted in entertainment and that the lifestyles and options depicted on TV are not the only paths available in life.
Are teachers of color important? Yes. Is it troubling that there seem to be fewer than there used to be? Absolutely. In a teaching contest between 10 teachers, five white and five black, teaching black students, would the black teachers produce better results? I don't know, I'd have to wait for the results. I can't predict that based on their skin. I'd have to see them teach.