An honest question about racism/race issues in HS

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by PEteacher07, Jun 23, 2011.

  1. PEteacher07

    PEteacher07 Cohort

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    Jun 23, 2011

    There was an episode of MADE on MTV today dealing with a young lady named Emma who is a senior in high school. She wanted to be "made" into a rapper to help express her feelings about being bullied for the last 2 years but it stirred up some in the African American community.

    Discussion happened in the African American Humanities class and when she went to talk to the teacher about it to hear her perspective. The teacher basically told her she didn't think it was a good idea b/c Emma was just dipping her toes in the African American culture and she needs to know that rap came from Africa. She then made the comment "We know you [the white community] don't like us." Do you think the teacher was out of line for saying that to a student?

    Emma tried to prepare herself to speak to the humanities class about her pursuit but the teacher caught her off guard by having the students write questions ahead of time to ask so she got really upset b/c she didn't feel she was able to say her thoughts and instead was having to answer a lot of questions and defend herself. I do think she made some comments that weren't the best simply b/c she was blindsided. She also got a lot of hateful Facebook posts stating that she was a racist b/c she was white trying to rap.

    Do you find race to be a big issue in HS with students and teachers? (I teach elementary school and we don't have those challenges so I genuinely don't know.) I was a little taken aback by the teachers attitude towards her. Kids can be unkind to each other, but I found her as a teacher to be unkind and unhelpful when it was not necessary.
     
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  3. LUCHopefulTeach

    LUCHopefulTeach Habitué

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    I student taught 5th grade in a K-8 school which was majority black. The teaching staff was 51% white and 49% black. There was no racism or racial tension between the black students and white teachers. I will say that there was a lot racial tension and issues between the teachers. I will not go into details but it was very obvious and unsettling.
     
  4. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jun 24, 2011

    I'm sorry, I'm totally unfamiliar with the TV show. Was it "reality TV"? Was this a real, spontaneous incident or something scripted?

    I'm probably not the best one to answer this. I'm in a Catholic high school in the 'burbs. We're probably 10% black, 10% Hispanic, 80% white.

    To the best of my knowledge, there are no race issues. It's a total non-issue. In fact, I had to step on one of my black kids this year. He thought it was hysterically funny to ask (with a smile, totally joking) "Is it because I'm black???" whenever I made a request of him-- to sit for announcements, to put on his tie, anything. We had a chat about how I KNEW he was kidding, but someone walking by the room might not, and just imagine the issues it could cause if someone thought I was giving him a hard time because of his race. The jokes stopped immediately; he simply hadn't thought it through.

    As far as the faculty goes, one of everyone's best buddies on the faculty is one of the 2 black teachers; I kid that I named Julia after her. (the other is newer, and I simply don't know her as well.) To the best of my knowledge, race has never been an issue with her or her daughter in the school.
     
  5. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Jun 24, 2011

    We do have some racial tension at our local high school, but I think that it tends to be more gang related than purely because of race. Some students have a very difficult time getting along because of the various gangs that they are involved with and these gangs tend to draw race lines...
     
  6. PEteacher07

    PEteacher07 Cohort

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    Alice, it's a reality show with a teenager who wants to be made into something. They have done everything from being made into pageant queens, athletes, and dirt bike racing. The show sends them a qualified coach who gives them several weeks to learn what they need to learn. At the end the kid goes into some sort challenge be it a school talent show, pageant, or tryouts. I have liked the show since it started about 10 years ago but I never saw an episode that took a turn like this before.

    If you wanted to watch it, I bet MTV has the episode online.
     
  7. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    Jun 24, 2011

    I'm from a town now "famous" for racial issues, but honestly there were very few growing up. My niece just graduated from the same high school and there are a few issues, but they fall more on the socioeconomic side than just racial. I will say that more of the problems tend to be with the adults than with the kids.
     
  8. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    I observe very few racial "problems" at my school. Students are quite sensitive to the power of race and to the need to forge a better, more equal society.

    However, white people often express the sense that everything's fine when their black colleagues and friends would differ. I was stunned in graduate school when a colleague told me he'd been pulled over 72 times so far that year. So far.

    He's Mexican-American with a long braid and he drove a pretty nice car. From his perspective this was part of the everyday racism that was a part of life in LA. That kind of experience is totally alien to me, and it helped me to understand that when it comes to race the fact that I don't see it has absolutely no bearing on whether it's there.
     
  9. TeacherApr

    TeacherApr Groupie

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    oh.my.word. REALLY?! White people can't rap huh? White people can't "dip into black culture" huh? But blacks can dip into white culture though......?

    That teacher was WAY out of line and so were those students.

    By the way, where's the reference that sites that "rap" came from Africa?
     
  10. Mrs.SLF

    Mrs.SLF Comrade

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    Jun 24, 2011


    Your last paragraph hit it right on the head; just because someone of one race doesn't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. Based on the teacher's comments ( I haven't personally seen the episode), the teacher was completely out of line. As a teacher that should have become a teachable moment to teach the "rapper" about Black/African American culture. All of my teaching experience has been in really rough neighborhoods that are 99% Black but I've never noticed racial tension between the faculty. Noticing racial tension among the student body would be difficult because of the lack of diversity.

    Just my :2cents:
     
  11. TechnoMage

    TechnoMage Companion

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    Jun 25, 2011

    I have only 55 years to look at...

    And 24 years as a teacher... And 5 years of military.... and 5 years of emergency medicine....and only 22 or so years of education... but..

    Pick it enough and it will bleed, and infected.
    Keep stirring it and it will stink.
    Talking about it does not make it go away...

    Realize it happened, use it for strength, and get over it!
    Whatever it was!

    Its the only way we can progress! Heal! And move on.

    TechnoMage:2cents:
     
  12. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Jun 25, 2011

    Very interesting post. Thank you.
     
  13. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Oh, racism is absolutely present in some high schools. My oldest dd, 17, had an extremely racists teacher for social studies last year. DD was transferred into the class three weeks into the semester. Teacher said "oh great, another white kid"

    Teacher would not respond to my calls/emails regarding the work dd missed those first three weeks. I showed up to Open House and the teacher refused to talk to me. She was very condescending and told me that 'some people think they deserve more time than others'. She walked right past me to a black family. Past another white family to boot.

    I waited. And waited. Finally I started dropping hints about being a teacher myself. She changed a little. When she found out that my boss was her sorority sister, she really changed. Then, one of my black coworkers walked down the hall. They knew each other. When I gave D a hug, it was over. DD and I were *in.* I was invited back into the classroom and we talked about the class and curriculum like we should. I found out that her two best friends were teachers at the same school when dh and I both attended. Both were known to be extremely racist. One called me a "rich white bitch" in the middle of class and the other told a black boy he could punch any of the white boys in her class and she would turn the other way.

    I haven't heard about any black children being treated poorly or at least it wasn't as obvious, by white teachers. Just the opposite.
     
  14. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Jun 26, 2011

    Adding...I did have two students last year claim that I was picking on them because they were black. One had a family member in the school system who liked to stir things up. He tried to grab onto the kid's claim and run with it. I demanded we have a meeting with him, the student and the principal. I will not be accused of something like that and not stick up for myself. The meeting went extremely well. I ended up with two apologies and that mess was never mentioned again.
     
  15. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Jun 26, 2011

    Interesting post - I need to check out the episode! First, I think the teacher was out of line. The teacher does not speak for the entire rap community, nor is the entire rap community African-American. There are roots of rap music in Africa, and even more roots in the African-American community, but the culture has since spread and does not just include the African-American experience.

    At the same time, there is a sensitivity I have experienced in the African-American community related to what is sometimes expressed as this: some people feel that African-American culture has either not been valued, or has been "stolen" by mainstream America for its entertainment and commercial benefit, but still not valued. For example, many feel that hip hop music was not valued and respected, but exploited by White American for its commercial and entertainment values, in a way that was neither permitted nor appreciated by African-Americans. After a while, consistent "borrowing" or "theft" from a particular culture, without due respect, can be seen as offensive.

    So, I can see how there might be some hesitant feelings on the part of the African-American teacher with a White girl using a cultural tradition rooted in the African-American community for her own benefit, even if not in a mean or exploitive manner. I think it would have been appropriate for the teacher to express some of this conflict to the student in a respectful and informative manner if the teacher felt it was appropriate. However, like others, I'd find many aspects of the teacher's approach inappropriate in this case.

    Still, looking forward to viewing the episode for more perspective...
     
  16. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Jun 26, 2011

    I haven't seen this specific episode, but several years ago I watched the show a few times so I do understand the purpose.

    Only based on what was shared here, I think the teacher was entirely out of line.

    That people would feel that rapping is, or at least should be, an African American-only interest is sad.

    Clogging is somewhat popular around here, and while I've never seen an African American clogger in town I can't imagine telling or implying to an interested African American that it's really a "white thing".
     
  17. Marci07

    Marci07 Devotee

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    I don't understand how this teacher made this comment when eminem has been all over the news and TV. He's a very good rapper and he's white.

    Maybe this teacher needed to do a little more background checking on his own before making these comments.

    Generalizing about anybody's race should not be tolerated, particularly in a classroom.
     
  18. tchr4evr

    tchr4evr Companion

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    I don't think its much of a problem at my school, among the students, but I have been accused of being racist by parents (I am white, and they are not) One of my colleagues who teaches AP Lit is black, and there is a well-known thought at our school that if you are black but have never taken an AP class before, sign up for hers, because she'll give you highrt grades if you're black. This is not true at all, but somehow it continues.

    I had a college professor once who told me that I shouldn't direct a play because I had no concept of the "black" experience in America. She was head of the African-American studies program, and my theatre professor had suggested that my directing partner and I see her to discuss some of the literary merits and performance techniques of Douglas Turner Ward's "Day of Absence". (Black author who wrote a play about a small southern town where one day, all the blacks disappear, and they can't function, it's a satire) She called us racist and said we were going to mock blacks, etc. I also had an African-Americal literature professor who criticized me for taking his class, saying I wanted to lower myself to associate with the black man--I was the only white person in that class. He always asked me to explain the feelings of the slave owner or the horrible white person in the books, asking "From a white point of view . . . " It was terrible.
     
  19. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    It's really interesting that white against black racism is so overtly discussed these days in so many circles, but there are very few public conversations about prejudice by blacks against whites. While that "reverse prejudice" might not have as many impacts as white against black racism, it's still very real as many people have described, and very ignored by many.

    I'd be interested to know if anyone has worked at a diverse school (diverse meaning diverse, not monoculturally African-American or Hispanic) that has participating in any kind of extensive diversity program that helps kids build relationships, analyze stereotypes, and engage in real conversation. There are a few formal programs out there and organizations - mostly that target high schools, or possibly middle schools. Any positive or negative experiences from anyone?
     
  20. LUCHopefulTeach

    LUCHopefulTeach Habitué

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    :yeahthat: This is what happened in the school I student taught in between the teachers... It was unbearable.
     
  21. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    Jun 28, 2011

    I had a kid try to pull that with me. We had a grade level behavior clipboard to mark missing assignments. I marked a Caucasian student, an Hispanic student, and an African-American student. The African-American student immediately started yelling that I only wrote his down because he was black. Needless to say, he got an office referral for screaming at me and accusing me of being racist for documenting him the same as any other student.

    Sadly, he used the race card when he was caught red-handed burglarizing a home and stabbing an elderly man in the face.
     
  22. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    That's unfortunate - I wonder if someday this will change?
     
  23. LUCHopefulTeach

    LUCHopefulTeach Habitué

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    I hope so. It really made working together cooperatively impossible.

    They chose a new principal and assistant principal for the school over two years ago and two Black teachers are still mad at three White teachers over who they voted for, refuse to talk to the White teachers, and were constantly calling them racist over choosing the principal that they did choose.
     
  24. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Wow, that's just sad.
     
  25. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    Jun 28, 2011

    And when I started teaching at my present school I saw racism
    black to white. From the 80s into the 90s. Really just two,
    an aide and teacher and there attitudes and comments about another staff member, elderly black lady. I corrected them a few times but you dont change how and where they were raised.
     
  26. tchr4evr

    tchr4evr Companion

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    I remembered something

    We started an IB program at our school 4 years ago. It was not well-received due to its lack of basic planning, and very few teachers applied to teach the program. Only two teachers applied for the English position, one black & one white. The black woman was given the job, and I have been told by other members of the IB faculty that she was chosen over the other candidate because she was the only black teacher who applied. The students have been complaining about her since day 1, as are her colleagues, but they won't remove her from the program because there are only 2 black IB teachers at this point, and the admin wants a diverse IB teaching population. The other one may be leaving the school, so they may have only 1 in the fall.
     
  27. PEteacher07

    PEteacher07 Cohort

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    Jun 29, 2011

    Children are so perceptive too so there is no doubt that the kids at your school are aware of this tension. They may not know the specific reason why, but I guarantee they know something's up and it probably wouldn't help if there is racial issues between students.
     
  28. looneyteachr

    looneyteachr Companion

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    Jul 16, 2011

    rap isn't for one race of people - period - just like opera or poetry or football or surfing isn't for one race of people - sounds like the teacher had own insecurity issues - if u don't have honest open discussions with kids nothing will change
     
  29. The Fonz

    The Fonz Math teacher (for now...)

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    Jul 16, 2011

    i just read the op and i am disgusted by what the teacher said..if this AIRED on tv just as you said and the administration didn't do anything about the way the teacher talked to the student and handeled the situation, then I am appalled...it sounds like she incited the racisim by having the students set her up to failure with the questions and state that "white people don't like them"
     
  30. Good Doobie

    Good Doobie Rookie

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    Personally I think students today like to think they are not racist and like to tell the adults they are racist and like to teach them how to deal with racism. They think they are dealing with it intelligently when they call each other racists names in a joking way.
    When I taught in LA, I loved my ESL students from Mexico the most. And counselors said they loved me. I was not specially trained to teach ESL, but in teaching science I guess the fact that I pointed to equipment, explained until they understood, I guess that helped them learn. I had many students try to get into my classes. Well also, I admit it did seem that many white teachers hated the illegal immigrants who had been there so long. These teachers agreed that the new illegals were nice, but said wait until those nice ESL students have been here for a few years.
    I am afraid I kind of agree.
    I am going to be straight with you. I had other classes of students who had been here for years. Honestly, I was shocked by the behavior of my other classes. I could not believe how rude and irresponsible, etc. they could be. They had street smarts that seemed highly clever and intelligent. I thought it was such a waste of intelligence. I felt like they were actually waging a war against the United States.
    While I am at it, I also want to say this. After my experiences and diliberations I actually think it would be great if the United States and Mexico would unite somehow.
    By the way, I consider myself an anglo republican supporter of President Obama and I hope he is there long enough (or someone) to bring about making Mexico and the US part of one union. Mexico needs our help. They are beautiful people, but are in trouble with the gangs and cartels.
     
  31. Sam Aye M

    Sam Aye M Mr. Know-It-All

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    Jul 17, 2011

    Well, not really sure where to start with this one, so I'll just go piece by piece.


    I'll just say that I disagree. This has not been my experience. I've worked in a pretty diverse school, a few districts with 95% hispanic populations, and another one with very real racial tensions. I've never thought that the students felt that way in any of our schools, and in some cases, they needed the help of adults to navigate through their own racism. Of course, that doesn't mean that everyone's experience has been the same.

    As a Hispanic in So Cal, maybe I am just sensitive,but referring to them as "illegals," is pretty condescending. And if this is Southern CA, chances are, all of your Spanish speaking students were not from Mexico. A lot of them come from other countries from Central America.While it is indeed possible that they were all from Mexico, there's usually at least one or two that are from other Spanish-speaking countries.

    "Waging a war" against the US? That's ridiculous. I really can't think of any other way to describe this but call it ridiculous. The last district I worked in was over 90% Hispanic in LA County. I can guarantee you that no one was trying to wage a war against the US. There are some highly intelligent kids in that school district, and many of them were going to great universities as they graduated. I went to the National School Psychologist Convention this year, and was pleased to see a former student who was working on her Ph.D. giving a presentation about Hispanic values and how they can affect school relations. And she wasn't an anomaly either. The vast majority of the faculty in that district were all former students who went away to college and earned degrees, and came back to the community to work with the students in the schools they graduated from themselves. Are there "bad" hispanic kids? Sure. But there are also Caucasian, Black, Asian, and Indian kids who are also a pain in the butt. I know, because I have to work with them. [/quote]

    And I should say, I do believe that your heart is in the right place. But it sounds to me that your experiences with the Hispanic culture may be limited, and it really seems to be coming out in this post. There are certainly cultures in which I feel the same way about my own experiences, and I know I probably say things wrong, or don't understand why they do things that they do, but as a teacher and a psychologist, I feel that it is my responsibility to try to understand those things, as hard as it may be. And I have no doubt that I have failed at it more times than I may realize.

    We can't even help ourselves right now, much less help Mexico. We have our own problems with gangs that have never been solved. I'm not sure how we are going to solve Mexico's problems as well.

    I am a fourth (at least) generation hispanic-american. While I may have grown up in predominantly poor Hispanic communities, I know less about hispanic culture than people would think. I don't eat many of the cultural foods, I don't celebrate the cultural holidays, and I don't even speak Spanish. My parents don't even speak Spanish. I have no relatives in Mexico, and I went to TJ once for a day when I was a teenager. I've spent more time in Canada than I have in Mexico. I'm probably about as American as they come, and yet I have had to feel the brunt of racism as I grew up. I joke with my friends that I didn't even know I was Hispanic until I left home and strangers were kind enough to point it out to me.
     
  32. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    Jul 18, 2011

    At my current job, my school is probably 85-90% white, which I am not used to at all. There is also little variance in religion, sexuality, etc. Last year, I had a student, actually a whole class of students, try to convince me that there is nothing wrong with saying the N-word and it can't be offensive if there aren't any black people in the room. :dizzy: I have also had some male students make very misogynistic comments about women.

    My last job was more diverse and I felt like students didn't have as many racial issues. I guess they were just used to each other.

    There were more problems at my last job with the teachers though (there are only 3 black employees at my current school, so I can't say if we would have the same problems there or not). At my last job, the black teachers definitely created a "clique." To the extent that when one of their houses burnt down, they sent an email to only the other black teachers about making donations. That just seemed stupid to me because I am sure everyone in the school would have donated a few dollars at least. When I found out about it, I gave some money, anyway. It was very weird because I thought the staff was really friendly, and I felt like I was friends with both black and white teachers, but when certain situations arose, they wanted to keep to themselves.

    Also, at that job, when I was dept chair, a teacher was fired and I am pretty sure it was because she was black. I fought for her for a long time and I couldn't see any evidence for them letting her go. Another white teacher that I was good friends with was told that she shouldn't tell her students that her baby's father was black. The principal there was terrible.
     

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