Racisim in reverse

Discussion in 'General Education' started by mmswm, Feb 29, 2008.

  1. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I have a girl in my class who I'll call Beth. She is mostly white ( birth mom's white, dad's half white, half black). She was also recently adopted from the foster care system. I teach in an inner city school and there are NO other even remotely close to white people there except for me. Here's what happened:

    A few days ago we were playing a math game and I heard some of the boys teasing Beth, but didn't hear exactly what they said. I called them out on the teasing and didn't hear anything else, but apparently that's only because they got more subtle about it. Several minutes later, Beth ran crying hysterically from the room. Turns out they had been harrasing and threatening her simply because she is white. This had been a minor problem in the past, and I'm not exactly sure what's caused it to escalate into threats of violence, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that they are currently studying the Jim Crow laws as part of black history month.

    I got Beth sitting in the office with the secretary trying to calm her down and then went back to my class and read them the riot act. I may have gone a little overboard, but hey, I was way past livid. Bascially I told them that there are two types of people in this world: good people, and jerks, and all I saw in front of me was a bunch of jerks (okay, maybe I shouldn't have done that. I was mad). I also told them I was well aware of what they said about me regarding being a white chick behind my back, but I didn't give a rat's behind about what a bunch of 12 year olds thought of me. They could make fun of me all they wanted, but realize, that the need to make yourselves feel better by putting somebody down was a sure sign of a weak person. I told them the only thing that makes anybody better than anybody else is how they treat others. The better person doesn't mistreat anybody.

    Anyway, Beth never did get herself calmed down enough to come back to class. I'm still mad enough at this class to spit nails. I know my tirade probably went a little overboard, but these little chits needed a wake up call. Now that it's all done and over with, what would you guys do?
     
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  3. kburen

    kburen Cohort

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    Not sure what I'd do.....but if you're school is anything like mine....It would be to wait to get a ton of complaints and letters and phone calls from parents because you called their child a jerk.
     
  4. ChangeAgent

    ChangeAgent Comrade

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    Feb 29, 2008

    How did the students respond? The usual "the-teacher's-pissed-so-we-should-be-quiet-the-rest-of-the-day" response? Did anyone apologize? Snicker? Laugh? Defend themselves?

    Does Beth have any friends in the class? Has she been with you all year? Does your school have a peer mediation program you could have Beth and some students work with?

    Since we were discussing racism on another thread, I would just note that I would not consider your incident reverse racism--if a person is harrassed, oppressed, or bullied because of their race, then that is racism.
     
  5. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

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    I agree. So often our society makes racism out to be the degradation of traditionally ethnic minorities and therefore no one those same ethnic groups could never be guilty of racism. This thinking needs to change, the sooner the better. It really isn't fair, in my opinion, for people to blame others of a certain group for past crimes when there is no possible way they were guilty or even present. It would be like blaming Germans under the age of 30 for the events of the 1930's and 40's in that country or blaming Americans of the same age for the bombing of Hiroshama and Nagasaki. Carrying grudges and feuding gets everyone nowhere.
     
  6. bonneb

    bonneb Fanatic

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    I don't think you went a bit overboard!

    These little rascals have a honing device somewhere - they know just where a weak spot is. I actually believe we are all pretty much monsters at heart and have to learn the right way to be, all of us, and some are faster or more sensitive learners than others.

    You got out the hammer and you need to keep it out! Hammer the issue of kindness and fairness! I mean, we try to instill plain old manners and that isn't going all too well. This other is even more challenging. We must have zero tolerance for this evil of treating others as lice just because they are different, in skin color, accent, background, privilege. "All men are created equal." And by golly, in our classrooms we need to bring out the hammer - "the hammer of justice, the bell of freedom, lalala . . ." :whistle:
     
  7. bonneb

    bonneb Fanatic

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    And if you have to listen to parents complain about calling your classroom a bunch of jerks, so be it! Just throw them the ball and ask,"How would you have handled that situation?" Dopey parents.
     
  8. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I don't know the best way to handle it, but I bet I would have done the same thing. One thing I might have added if I goofed on a word or felt maybe there might be problems is to talk to my Principal so she will know the full situation just in case parents do contact her. She can ward them off early if she fully supports you.
     
  9. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    My classroom is right next door to the principal's office, so she and her secretary heard everything. So far I haven't gotten any parent complaints, but then again, most of my parents are strung out and only care about their next high. Those that do care are few and far between.

    Beth does have friends, just not in this class. Her friends are mostly 8th graders (she's 7th) so she only spends lunch and after school with them.
     
  10. teresaglass

    teresaglass Groupie

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    What about meeting with the parents of the boys who did it with the principal present? this is a matter of the student's safety and is not just a racial incident. It needs to be reported to administration.
     
  11. Yank7

    Yank7 Habitué

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    Feb 29, 2008

    Call Al Sharpton,I'm sure he would be outraged by this situation and might fly right down to speak to your class.
    Seriously,I don't think you overreacted,nor will you get parent complaints for telling the truth,they did act as jerks. You might want to do some lessons on prejudice,discrimination and stereotyping and why it is unfair. I also think the principal should speak to the boys involved and they certainly owe Beth an apology.
    I admire you for teaching in the difficult situation you do. You must really care about the children. Keep us posted.
     
  12. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Change, they had the "teacher's pissed so we'll be quiet" response. There were a number of guilty looks, but those were from the kids who's only crime was to fail to defend the girl. I think those kids knew what was going on and felt bad about it, but they still need to learn how to stand up to that kind of thing.

    As far as what I do, I ADORE my kiddos. Sure they're a rough bunch, but they're good kids at heart. For the most part they don't know any better as far as most of their antics are concerned.

    I think I'll use the idea of having a discussion about racisim and prejudice in general. Now, how can I turn that into math?????
     
  13. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    What are you teaching in math?
     
  14. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Umm... just a brainstorm..didn't say these were good ideas yet..

    Research how much it cost to run discrimination agencies and lead into how much we have today, what it means and how much that not only hurts people but cost our tax dollars because we can't accept each other.
     
  15. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Right now it's all about FCAT, unfortunately, and not by my own choice. I've been informed that I MUST do only FCAT related work until after the test (two more weeks to go, then I can go back to teaching a real class.) What I've been doing is a series of games and activites around FCAT type problems in order to attempt to obey the orders of the FCAT gods, but also to not burn the kids out so that by the time the actual test comes around they're still in a mood to take the darn test. In other words, random stuff, all day, every day, in FCAT form.

    I do relay race games, team "race" type games, scavanger hunt/riddle games where they have to solve math problems to get the next clue to find the prize (that's a favorite) among other stuff.

    And this class is 7th grade.
     
  16. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Maybe put it on hold while the hostility is still there among all sides (and potential for embarassment) then do a full lesson on it the day after the test. Right now they deserve to know you are ticked off and won't tolerate it. Then when things simmer down, discuss it rationally as a group. It also would make an impact that just because a few weeks went by doesn't mean you forgot it. It is still a big deal.
     
  17. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Good point on waiting. I do like the idea of the cost of discrimination. I'll think about ways to to that.
     
  18. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    The only problem with the cost idea is that the real cost is hidden (inside our hearts).
     
  19. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    So true, so true.
     
  20. January_Violet

    January_Violet Comrade

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    Wow, you referred to children as jerks!!! How sad :eek:

     
  21. January_Violet

    January_Violet Comrade

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    :huh:Was it necessary to say this? It's ridiculous comments like these that fuels racism. Al Sharpton has done quite a bit to bring awareness to the flaws of the majority.

     
  22. MissFrizzle

    MissFrizzle Virtuoso

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    I think the OP knows calling a child a jerk is wrong. I don't think they need to have to feel bad about it again.

    The point is that they made a mistake. In the heat of the moment a lot worse could have been said. thank goodness it wasn't.
     
  23. Yank7

    Yank7 Habitué

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    I'm sorry,I agree that Al Sharpton is a strong supporter against racism,so I figured this would be a great opportunity for him to point out the unfair behavior of these students towards a fellow student who had a different color skin than they did,even if her skin color was caucasian.By the way I think people who act the way these students did need to be taught why it is wrong,and no matter what age they did act like jerks.
     
  24. eduk8r

    eduk8r Enthusiast

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    January Violet, it's nice to see you--you've been gone a while. :) You are right, we shouldn't call names to show kids how not to do it, but we're human and sometimes we react without being calm and rational. And sometimes we do need to call a spade a spade, but not necessarily in this case. Mswmm, I would have felt like that too. It really hurts my feelings when I see kids hurting each other over the color of their skin. Try looking up teachingtolerance.org (I hope that's the right address, if not, go to the pbs.org website and search for it, please) among other things to help these kids understand that perpetuating this kind of hate is harmful to everyone. There are lots of other good things on the pbs website regarding racial issues. I'm glad your students and you have such a good rapport that they care how they affect you--that's a good beginning for helping them to have compassion for others, too. Good luck to you, I'll be praying for your class and for you. :love:
     
  25. sue35

    sue35 Habitué

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    I would have done the same thing probably. The thing is, they were being jerks. I feel that with older kids sometimes they need to hear that for it to make a difference. You can talk about what is right and wrong all you want, but until you really put it in their face they won't listen to you.
     
  26. MissFrizzle

    MissFrizzle Virtuoso

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    To the OP. ........................ you are correct. Sorry, if any thing I said was interpreted at finger pointing... I think the best way to rectify the situation is to continue to do team building excercises.

    A long time ago, there was an "experiment" done ( I watched it on 60 minutes I beleive. A white teacher in the late sixties/early seventies wanted to teach her kids about how it felt to be discriminated against so instead of skin color she divided the class based on eye color. I'm not saying to do this, but if you could see the profound impact it had on the kids as adults it is amazing. I will search.. I couldn't believe it.

    Anyway, focus on togetherness and continue to have a zero tolerance on any type of discrimination. You seem to do the right thing, but had a human moment. Be honest with the kids... apologize and move on.
     
  27. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    Instead of WWJD, what do you think Al Sharpton would do with the "majority" in this class? Really curious & I'm not being sarcastic.
     
  28. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    I think Hoot Owl was asking what Al Sharpton might have to say to the kids.
     
  29. January_Violet

    January_Violet Comrade

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    He has email, how about posing it to him???

     
  30. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    Please remember that while disagreeing is perfectly ok, attacking others is not. From reading the posts I think it is very obvious that the orignal poster has freely admitted that calling her students names was a mistake. What she has asked is that others help her come up with ways to address what happens now. I don't think anyone would say that she was right for calling the kids name. I think most of us understand the frustration that she felt at the time, though. Sometimes everything just falls into the right place and you snap. You regret it later, but that doesn't stop it from happening.
     
  31. Exclaimation Po

    Exclaimation Po Habitué

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    A similar incident happened in my 8th grade language arts class, only it was just intolerant behavior, not racism.

    I have a student in one of my classes who is kind of odd. The only friend she has at school is her sister. Middle school students can be quite mean towards people who are different in any way. Up to this point, there had been a couple of comments about her that I addressed right away. This day, however, I had several extra students because a teacher was out sick and we had no subs. One of the extra students started saying mean things about the odd girl without actually mentioning her. It snowballed and she ended up in tears. I sent her to a neighboring room and called to have someone from administration come to my room. While I was waiting I talked to the whole class about their actions and how completely inappropriate they were. The AP arrived right before the lunch bell and lectured them for 15 minutes of their lunch. The next day a couple of students did apologize to the girl, but I didn't feel it was enough.

    I decided to use this as a learning experience for all of my classes and found a great lesson at The Tolerance Project (http://www.ccsf.edu/Resources/Tolerance/lessons/div.html). I took two weeks to work through the lesson. About half way thorugh the lesson, several students in the class spontaneously apologized to the girl for anything they might have done that might have hurt her feelings. Lately I've even noticed some of the students who made fun of her in the beginning of the school year actually talking to her on their own.

    I don't know if I've taught them anything they didn't already know about language arts, but I do know that I've opened their eyes to tolerance, and that makes me feel good.
     
  32. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Do you know of anything with a little lower reading level? While my kids are grade 7, they're behind academically and that site would be difficult, if not impossible for them to read. I do like the population stats part though.
     
  33. Exclaimation Po

    Exclaimation Po Habitué

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    My students are average to low and did pretty well. What I would do if I were you (providing you really want to get into this), is use the Celebrating Diversity part of the article and pick out the hard words. Have the students define them or look them up in a dictionary, or even just give them the meanings. Then read the section as a group while stopping to discuss parts you find interesting. Then give them comprehension questions that they have to re-read through the piece to find the answers. I can help you with that, if you'd like. I made up some questions for my students and can give them to you.
     
  34. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Maybe we can turn this into an interdisiplanary unit. I teach math, so I'm gonna talk to the LA and SS teachers tomorrow. I'll let you know what they say. Thanks for the tip.
     
  35. teresaglass

    teresaglass Groupie

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    You might also try the Anti-Defamation League website. They have some good things about racism.
     
  36. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    Fantastic ideas, most of y'all! I have to give you credit, mmswm, because you take full responsibility for your reaction to the actions of your students -- honestly, I would probably done something very similar! Do me a favor, though. When teaching diversity, please don't limit it to skin color/race. Children are cruel to ANY student with ANY weakness, and I have seen kids tortured because: they were overweight, they had red hair, they were A students, they weren't A students, they had freckles, they wore glasses, etc. and it goes on and on. As a "fluffy" person myself (and my sister has red hair), I have personally experienced some of the worst epithets and actions of adolescents, and it still galls me to this day.
     
  37. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Good point, Phwatley. My maiden name was Masterson...do you know what middle schoolers can do with that name???? lol, oh, and I'm a red head with freckles, glasses, and never was a small person (not fat, mind you, but 5 foot 8 and built like a linebacker). I've heard my share of teasing.

    I've gotten some good leads from people replying to this thread, and I've started to put together a unit with the other teachers in the school. We'll start after spring break. I'm looking foward to a constructive unit on this topic.
     
  38. blessedhands

    blessedhands Comrade

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    Ha.... I dont think your approach was 100% kosher but it was appeasable.

    Just like yesterday was black students called the black male teacher a 'n****'. The nervous of them ignant dudes!!! How could they do such a thing? I was so mad and so was the teacher. He tol d them to stop being ignorant and that he was not a nig. He said they are acting like dummies. They took it that he was calling them dummies but I understood he meant that they acting ignorant.

    Maybe you will have a better day morrow.
     

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