Sunday, November 6, 2016
The White Teachers and Their Black Students.
A few months ago, I read this article, so when my cousin was trying to tell me about white teachers discriminating against black kids, I told him that I will just take 30 minutes to reply to him in an article because I have heard this now like 4 times within the past 30 days. I have pastored in Bambui where I was the only person from another tribe. I led youth groups and university ministries in Yaoundé where there is a constant conflict between the Francophones and Anglophones, and I have lived with both whites and blacks in the United States, so I know a little bit about tribalism and racism. Many things that are considered racist are either misunderstanding or misbehavior. I am not saying that there are no racist teachers. They are in all colors. There is systemic and systematic racism even in school discipline and the way schools are catered for. However, my task this afternoon is just to show some of the things that are misconstrued as racism between the white teacher and the black student.
I hear black and Hispanic kids always tell me that this and that white teacher is a racist. One day a group of black kids came to see me. I asked them why they were not in class. They told me that their teachers did not like them. They said, “You know dem white people don’t want black people in their school.” The problem is that even me who is a black man, I will not want any student who prefers to loiter around the school premises rather than go to class. I will look for means to expel them. That is not a case of racialism. You do not need to like a teacher to do his work. It is like saying that because you don’t like a certain mayor, you are going to break all the municipal ordinances.
Sometimes they will tell me things like, “He is failing me because he does not like black people.” When I probe them more to give me concrete examples, they will tell me things like, “I went to the restroom, and she marked me absent.” Then I call the teacher to find out the truth. The teacher tells me she went to the restroom and stayed there for 30 minutes. I want you to just imagine that you are that teacher. Your class is 52 minutes long, and every day, a student goes to the restroom for 30 minutes. Would you consider them present? The rule is that, if a student went to the restroom and was there for more than 10 minutes, the said student should be marked absent. Whether the teacher does that with white students or not, it does not matter. Simply because 23 kids from a Sarajevo high school went to a field trip and 7 came back pregnant does not mean that every girl should go to a field trip and come back pregnant. Underage pregnancy is wrong, whether you are punished or not.
Another example was a black kid who would not stop using her cell phone in class because “She was talking to her mom.” She thinks that talking to her mom is more important than obeying the classroom rules of not using her phone. She thinks that the teacher writing her up is because she hates her as a black person. I tried to explain to her that I did not see it as racism, but she insisted that I could not understand racism. The same thing many black people always tell me. I mean, who is that black man in The United States who does not understand racism?
One time a black student told me that he was being suspended from school because the white administrator does not like black people; he is suspending him just because he was caught with just a little joint. I asked him if the cannabis belonged to him, and he accepted. I told him that it was not racism; he was suspended for breaking the law. He tried to argue that white kids don’t get suspended with such an amount. It does not matter. If you do not want vultures to eat your corpse, you don’t die in an open field.” Our people will say. If you swim in a shark infested ocean, then you are tired of living and want the sharks to use you for lunch, and lunch you will become. It is not because they planned to have you for lunch; you just happened to be in the wrong place at the right time.
Sometimes I don’t even know if the word racism is used properly. Listen, I have had black kids call me racist. If you point out that a student is not well dressed because they are sagging, it would be considered racist. If you tell a student that you will not take his/her assignment after 2 weeks of lateness, it would be considered racism. If you tell a student not to come late, it would be considered racism.
One time there was a white student who was very disruptive in her Spanish class. The teacher was a white guy. He asked her several times to be respectful, but she ignored him. He asked her to leave his class, so he brought her to my class. As usual, I asked her why she was put out of class, and she told me that, “This stupid, racist white man put me out. He does not even know how to teach.” Coincidentally, the teacher was returning to my class to give her work, so he overheard her very clearly. He then gave her the devil’s steer. She did not back down. Instead, she followed up with, “Yes, you heard me well: you stupid white man.” The man charged towards her, and I held him down and spoke some words of patience and self-control into him. Can you imagine if a black student had called him "stupid white man," or can you imagine if a white student calls me the N-word like the black students have done several times? Everyone will call that student racist! Now can you imagine a white teacher call a black student the N-Word, even though many black people use the same very offensive word?
People have to be careful when they attribute racism to every adverse action. There are many kids who lack tutelage, but many don’t get it because they have scared teachers from ever helping them for fear they are accused of racism.
My cousin told me that he wanted to teach, so I told him to come and visit me in school. I asked my colleagues if we could sit in their classes during my planning, so he will get a feel of what he intended to do. In one of the classes, it was a white lady, and almost all the students were black. They were unwilling to learn, disruptive and unruly. After the class, my cousin asked me why the teacher was not saying anything. I advised him to ask her, and she told us that if she does anything now, they will say that she is racist. She told us that her husband is not working, and she is the only bread winner. She has to select her battles. That position is not strange. It is a position that many teachers are taking now with students of different colors for fear they are called racist. If they have not done so, they will be doing so very soon because it is not worth the stress. Then you will have your kids who graduate from school uneducated or who may not even graduate because they ran into trouble.
When I was growing up, many students moved in to live with our teachers. I still remember parents calling me and telling me that their children were in my hands, so they wanted me to raise them up to be better people. Now, every accusation a student brings, the parents believe it. If the teacher is the opposite color, then they tag him or her as racist.
Folks, its takes a village to raise up a child. If we continue like this, the teachers, the parents and especially the students are the losers. You see that middle school suicide has risen, and suicide amongst teenage girls has increased three times. These kids are with these teachers for about 8 hours or more a day, so they exert more influence on them, but you have scared them to a point where they cannot be truthful to your own kids. The parents must think clearly before they believe a racism accusation labeled on the teacher. If you want the white teachers to have an impact in the lives of the black kids, you must give them your full support and trust. It goes both ways.
Until then, let us support one another so we will better serve our kids.
St Arrey of Ntenako.
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