the times are changin'
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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

everyone's a little bit racist...

Lesson of the day: "Every person who is (ethnicity/race) is (a complete stereotype). Now, that's just true." Statements like this are in fact racist or are in the very least ignorant stereotypes that lead to prejudice.

These kids can really drive me crazy, not by being ignorant--ignorance is generally not their fault--but because after I explain to them why I don't want comments like they're making to be made in my class they continue making them. They continue, usually, not out of malice but out of a desire to procrastinate their work, but it still reveals their utter insensitivity to other students of the ethnicity they are referring to who are in the class as well as their utter disrespect for me (and who wants to call a parent to tell them their kid is making racist comments in class? yikes!).
We're watching a documentary on the American musical and the narrator talks about how The Lion King is different for white audiences than for black audiences because, for example, a young black male seeing the image of a king who is black can be very empowering. A student pipes up, saying, "That's so racist!" I was completely taken aback. I explained to her that the point she's making is that until now young black kids have never seen a president who is black, and that's a big deal. She backed down with an "Oh." Let me also point out that this student, who thought that Julie Taymor was a racist for her comments about The Lion King, is the same student who only moments before defended a student who had very flippantly called someone a "n----r." The student's argument was that the word simply means "ignorant" so she calls anybody that, no matter the color of his/her skin. Wow. So the term that throughout history has been used, often maliciously, to label African Americans now only means do they not see that that in and of itself is still totally demeaning? In my response, I chose not to go down the path of asking how they would respond if I were to use the word, and chose instead to tell them that for many people the term is still very derogatory and offensive, and, therefore, I do not want it to be used in my classroom regardless of how they feel free to use it outside of class.
Perhaps I am ignorant or oversensitive and some of these things should not bother me as they do, but the longer I spend inside the classroom, the more nervous I become about these kids becoming nation leaders. These kids that know so little of their history and who still segregate themselves when allowed to choose their own seats, speaking of "that side of the room" with utter disdain and contempt; kids who refuse to see from others' points of view and who would rather work alone than to collaborate on a project with someone who isn't their best friend, even if it means doing double the work. For all I know, these issues are singular not only to my school but to my classroom, but even still they often lay heavy on my heart and often probably not nearly as heavy as they should. I certainly don't have solutions, but hopefully over the next few years students who enter my classroom will walk out with just a little more, even if just a semblance of, empathy.

and now to lighten the mood...

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