High school teacher sent home after using the n-word during day of dialogue following racist and anti-semitic incident

#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/03/06/high-school-teacher-sent-home.html

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#2

I’d hope any teacher who says the n-word with that weak-ass, ignorant justification is also sent home. Good on that school administration!

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#3

Students confirmed she is not in class today.

Adios Mofo.

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#4

The father of one of the students, Gordon Stewart, issued an apology for his daughter’s behavior on his business’ social media accounts. Stewart is the owner of Hoover Toyota.

50 bucks says if she gets punished, it’s for allowing his business to take a hit rather than her bigotry.

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#5

This mirrors my experience in an Alabama high school in the late 80s. I am not surprised.

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#6

Michigan as well. The difference is that, back then, it was never addressed. I remember when a kid, the proverbial stereotypical jock, came to school on Halloween dressed as a klansman complete with a noose. Nothing was said and/or done.

I strongly suspect he’s not incredibly successful these days, though.

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#7

Yes, what she said was wrong. Yes, she should be sent home. Yes, I’m sure it betrays what is really in her heart.

But there is an issue here, IMVHO. I was raised that you never say that word under any circumstances. Even today, as a 50+ year old white guy w/ 3 kids, I can’t allow myself to say it even in an anticeptic or academic context… for example, quoting someone or using it to make a point, whatever. If I even say it in my mind, I cringe.

My kids, ages 18, 16, and 13, and especially the youngest, are living in a time where the word is used ALL THE TIME in pop culture by African-Americans. They here it in music, videos, etc… I have raised them, also, I hope, to understand the historical context of the word and to understand how horrible it is.

So, more and more it becomes a struggle to try to get whites (and I’m talking about reasonable people, not those, like this teacher, looking for an excuse to show their ugly side) to understand why this word is so bad. I honestly think it should be retired for everyone.

Hopefully, even if you disagree with me, if you read this in the spirit I’m offering it. As a talking point about a difficult issue. I fully understand how blacks using it is a reclaiming, etc… I get that. But as (thank God) black American culture becomes more and more part of the whole of American culture, we are going to have to rethink this.

While I don’t agree that the “white kids” should be allowed to say it, I found the perspective of this video illustrative.

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#8

Man, Trevor Noah wasn’t exaggerating; Black History Month 2019 was truly the worst one, ever:

All bigots, enablers and apologists can go kick rocks, barefoot.

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#9

I can identify with almost everything you have said. I am also 50+ white guy with kids in their 20s. Also cannot say “that word” just because of the history and pain it has caused. The only place I will disagree, respectfully and all, is that IMHO it is never the place of a white person to instruct any minority on their experience or vocabulary. I hear the word used in music, on playgrounds, etc and cringe, not for what it might mean to the folks saying it, but for what my own ancestors made use of it for. It is our burden to bear, and how a black or brown person uses it is not for me to comment on. I feel shame because of what it means to me and my own historical view of myself and my family.

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#10

We’ve discussed this. Ta-Nehisi Coates explains it for you.

Transcript:

Words don’t have meaning without context. My wife refers to me as, “Honey.” That’s accepted and okay between us. If we were walking down the street together, and a strange woman referred to me as “Honey,” that wouldn’t be acceptable. The understanding is I have some sort of relationship with my wife; hopefully I have no relationship with this strange woman.

When I was young and I used to go see my family in Philadelphia, where my dad was from, they would all call him Billy. His name is William Paul Coates–no one in Baltimore called him Billy, and had I referred to my father as Billy, that probably would have been a problem. That’s because the relationship between myself and my dad is not the same as the relationship between my dad, and his mother, and his sisters who he grew up with. We understand that.

It’s the same thing with words within the African-American community, or within any community. My wife with her girlfriends will use the word, “bitch.” I do not join in. I’m not saying, “Hey I want to–” I don’t do that. And I perhaps more importantly, I don’t have a desire to do it. You understand?

A while ago, Dan Savage was gonna have this show that he was going to call, Hey Faggot. I’m not gonna yell “faggot” at Dan Savage. That’s not my relationship with the LGBT community, and I understand that, and I’m okay with that. I don’t have a desire to yell out the word, “faggot.” I just don’t have that.

The question one must ask–if that’s accepted and normal for groups of people, we understand it’s normal, actually, for groups to use words that are derogatory in an ironic fashion–why is there so much handwringing when black people do it?

Black people are basically, however you feel about it, they’re not outside the normal rules and laws for humanity. I had a good friend, and we used to have this cabin in upstate New York, which he referred to as, “the white trash cabin.” He was white. I would never refer to that cabin, I would never tell him, “I’m coming to your white trash cabin.” I just wouldn’t do that, and I think you understand why I wouldn’t do it. The question one must ask is: Why do so many white people have difficulty extending things that are basic laws of how human beings interact to black people? I think I know why.

When you’re white in this country, you’re taught that everything belongs to you. You think you have a right to everything . You have a right to go where you–you’re conditioned this way! It’s not because your hair is a texture or your skin is light, it’s the fact that the laws and the culture tell you this. You’ve got a right to go where you want to go, to do what you want to do, be however, and people just have to accommodate themselves to you.

So here comes this word, that you feel like you invented. And now someone’s going to tell you how to use a word that you invented– Why can’t I use it? Everyone else gets to use it, you know what, that’s racism, that I don’t get to use it! That’s racist against me! I have to inconvenience myself and hear this song and I can’t sing along? How come I can’t sing along?

And I think for white people, the experience of being a hip-hop fan and not being able to use the word ****** is actually very, very insightful. It will give you just a little peek into the world of what it means to be black. Because to be black is to walk through the world, and watch people doing things that you cannot do. That you can’t join in and do. And so I think there’s actually a lot to be learned from refraining.

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#11

Hey, it’s my hometown…being completely predictable. My old high school friends on Facebook are saying this is out of the ordinary. They don’t seem to remember our classmates who thought it was okay to dress as Nazis for Halloween at school.

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#12

Either that, or he’s the governor of a state.

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#13

An alternative perspective:

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#14

Shall we cease teaching Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Huck Finn?

#15

I’m not instructing. I’m offering my opinion and what I think is a problem that does affect reconciliation. That said, if it’s just my sensibilities, well, compared to what minorities have suffered, it’s a pretty low level problem.

I do appreciate the thoughtful reply.

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#16

Yeah, I get it. And, like I said in my response the first reply, if this is one of the trickier things for me to deal with, I’ve had a good life. I realize that as a white, middle class, straight, male, born in the US that I’ve hit 9/10s of the lottery. So, yeah. I have actually used his approach in explaining to my kids why, even in a context of shared appreciation and friendship, it’s just not right for white folks to say it.

BUT, at the end of the day, things change and something here will have to change.

I thank you, too, for the thoughtful reply.

@Hutz, I couldn’t reply to you directly, due to forum restrictions… so…

Sorry, I can see how I said that poorly. Those are among my favorite books and I’d never want to see them removed. When I said “academic” I meant in more in the context of teaching and instructing where, as a professor I might have a very legitimate, academic use to say the word.

Sorry for the confusion.

@Wanderfound

Thank you for the link. I appreciate and found it very informative and instructive.

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#17

For the most part, “we” have. And, honestly, it’s not the end of the world. Peoples’ attitudes change. And Huck Finn is a pretty good book, and it had it’s run. But it’s not all that. People no longer teach that Conrad story, “The N-Word of the Narcissus.” And people are changing how we teach “Othello.” And at last, finally, most people laugh at Whitman critics who try to explain away the gay.

I’ll add that being able to read Huck Finn without “feeling some kinda way” is white privilege. And has been.

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#18

You can highlight text from multiple comments and quote them in a single reply.

Not to get too far off track, but this returns to Coates’s discussion of context posted in the video posted by @anon27595299 above. The use of the n-word by the titular character in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn functions to demonstrate the tension between the perverse racist moral framework Huck has been taught, that African Americans are inferior, and his loyalty to his friend Jim. Huck’s conscience is at odds with his white cultural indoctrination; the dehumanization of blacks is contradicted by their friendship. Specifically, Huck knows that Jim will face brutal punishment and quite likely be murdered if he’s caught for escaping slavery. In the context of the story, it’s an anti-racist message.

Anyone who would compare that to entitlement of a white person today to use the n-word or to its reclamation by black people is at best misguided and at worst disingenuous.

A white author employing the same plot device today would be criticized. That’s not racism, that’s context, in this case the historical context in which the story was written and published.

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#19

Can’t, won’t ever say it.

My home town was somewhat inverse as far as racial stereotypes might go. AFAIK there were only about 3 black families in our town, and they were respectively doctors, dentists and teachers. There was a nice house on the edge of town that was owned by one of the doctors, whose son was a friend of mine.

So despite clear evidence that black people are not inferior (in that 100% of the local examples were better educated and had more money than most of the rest of us) there were many complete racist morons who were incapable of incorporating that into their understanding of the world, and happily used the n-word along with all the other slurs to account for every other non-white race.

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#20

I had this discussion once with a co-worker. For me, the big issue is the ownership of the word. It is tedious to explain that that I don’t want white people to be the final arbiters of whether one should or shouldn’t use the word. I explained to my co-worker about the concepts of exonyms (I gave the example of a German guy we knew who was from Germany for us but Deutschland for him). In an ideal world, I would want white people to not “own” the word so that it doesn’t matter if black people use the word or not. I definitely don’t want a world where black people are assimilated into some bland mass where white people still have control over the language.