A Maryland high school teacher was taken to the hospital after being assaulted by one of his male students. The student claimed that the teacher made a racially insensitive remark. There isn’t much more to the story than that, but you can read the entire article here.
This story reminds me of an incident that occurred in my 11th grade history class. My history teacher was a white man; I am guessing that he was in his early 40’s. It is difficult to know. At 15 every one of my teachers seemed old, save my speech teacher who seemed young and voluptuous. I can still recall sitting in class, my 15 year-old, hyper-hormonal mind focused only on all of the delicious things I wanted to do to her. But I digress.
My history teacher was generally a good guy. i thought he was a good teacher. ( I even asked him to write my recommendations for my college applications.) He was a proud Republican and didn’t care who knew it. He was also prone to making stale jokes. His jokes often fell flat and none fell more flat than one afternoon when he (trying to be funny) made some comment about us (the black students in the class) all looking alike. No one laughed. I don’t even think anyone smiled. He recovered and continued with the class.
The next day, as class began, prior to handing back our homework, he told us that he had received a phone call from the mother of one of the students, complaining about the racist joke he had made in class. He was offended that anyone would think he was racist and denied making the comment. As much as I liked him, he HAD made the comment. He may not have meant any harm by it. He may have even been making a joke at his expense. But the remark was his.
A Black girl in the class spoke up. “I don’t care if you say who it was.” She boasted, “It was my mother who called.” She sat there very satisfied. I supposed she felt the satisfaction of having taken a stand for the cause. Power to the people! Free the Jackson Five!
I recall thinking at the time that it was odd that her mother chose to call about some silly, (and to my mind, harmless) joke and NOT about the fact that this girl didn’t contribute in class, didn’t do her homework, and near as I could figure out, was getting a D in the class. But such is the Black mindset surrounding the issue of race and racism. Perspective flees only to be replaced by course emotionalism. Under such thinking there is more damage to be suffered, more pain, if you will, under the weight of racism – even perceived racism – than there is concern about actual individual behavior and achievement. Racism, no matter, the size or bite, is experienced in the broadest of terms.
We used to say, “Them’s fighting words!” And when every faux pas becomes a personal attack, yep, they are fighting words indeed.
And if this is true, the question for the 21st century is, “how do we fight?” Is it possible that in the face of ignorant words, we are able to respond with wit and words? Or is the only response available to us, the going upside of someone’s head?
Because this article is so terribly written, we don’t know what was said and because the news seems afraid to print the offending words, we will never know if, indeed, the comments warranted the opening of a can of whoop ass. What we do know is that the remarks was “racially insensitive.” To me that suggests that the teacher didn’t call him a Nigger. Moreover, the school says that the student misunderstood what the teacher said. (Perhaps the teacher used the word niggardly?) But honestly, what could this teacher have said that was so awful, so painful, as to send a young man into a blind rage? What was so insensitive, so possibly misunderstood that it couldn’t have been handled by a phone call from his mother? I suspect he will have time to think about all of the other options while he sits in jail…unless of course, charges are dropped because “how else are we to expect Black people to act when confronted with the “pain” experienced by a teacher saying something insensitive? Now THAT is racism…but you didn’t hear from me.