Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"It's 'Cause I'm Black!"

Racism has become an easy wall for students to hide behind.

I used to bristle a little when students threw a racist taunt at me. If I asked a student to do or say something, or if I asked a student to be quiet, some students would just fire back:

"That's racist!"

Now, for me, I just found these petty indictments very frustrating. I just wanted a group of  students, or even just one student, to get something done.

Of course, sometimes I would ask students about their learning, their background. And again, there would be shouts of "That's racist!"

I admit that I get really upset when I hear students using the word "N-gger". Black students talk to each other with those terms, and I have never liked it. Even other minority students, Hispanics and Polynesians, have used that charged epithet with each other. I could go on and on about the term, but I would be wasting valuable time and space.

The issue of racism cropped up in our classroom management classes. The instructor had invited the continuation high school teacher in Long Beach to come and talk about the importance of dealing with unruly students. He started off the discussion first by tossing on the table in front of him the stack of referrals that he had received in one month.

I could relate to the frustration, I guess. Who would want to file through referrals all day? He also counseled one young lady, a Mexican-American by her own definition. She was insecure, to say the least, and having a snappy come-back was not the answer to her deep-set shake-ups. Still, the principal advised: "Just tell them, 'Fine, I'm racist!" Blow off some steam with a sense of humor, that was his remedy for kids who wanted to play the race card.

Fair enough,  I thought, such taunts or just ridiculous anyway, right? Of course, in another class I offered that suggestion when the question came up once again, "What do you do if a student accuses you of being racist?"

I got a lot of flak for saying what the principal had said to young Hispanic lady. " I would definitely not do that, if I were you," the instructor chided me. The rest of the class just groaned and assented in turn. I was the black sheep that evening (no pun intended).

At any rate, I learned a few phrases that I could toss around if times got tough, if students would try to take advantage of me in certain ways.

"That's racist!" one junior barked at me at South Gate.

"It's not racist! It's elitist! It's about excellence, and right now you don't have it." That usually put kids in their place.

Of course, there were other times when kids would forgo the rants of racism, and just exclaim, ""It's because I'm black!"

At first, that was just plain silly, enough to make me smirk, but other than that I did not care. Eventually, I got so tired of hearing people blame their skin color for whatever reason when I held someone accountable, that I blurted, "No, it's because I'm black!" or I would say, "No, it's because I'm Tongan. . "" or whatever I could think of on the spot.

I see no value in pressing anyone about race or color, and I do not condone students using race as a sticking point. The whole thing is just not acceptable.

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