This morning I had my first taste of a student using racism to deflect personal responsibility. The exact phrase said was, “Just because I’m brown…” My first reaction was shock, possibly the intention. Through a conversation I learned that the student was trying to reshuffle responsibility for not following directions. During this conversation I made it very apparent that if they were dealing with racism or perceptions of racism they could speak with me, the counselor, or the regular teacher. Towards the end I explained how in any interactions there may be unintentional racist or oppresive behaviors and that I need to know if I was doing something along those lines. After ascertaining that nothing discriminatory had occured – intentionally or unintentionally – we went back into the classroom but the conversation has stuck with me.
I am frustrated that a student pulled the racial card.
I am feeling hurt.
I am inspired.
When a student does something like this I worry about how they are degrading themselves, their culture, the classroom, and the community. Do they truly believe this? If students discriminate against one another, or degrade themselves or others they might be surprised with how I respond. This will not be a lightly or dismissively handled subject. I will react strongly. And we will have several conversations. Hopefully we can work together as learners and scholars to understand and value tolerance. Secondly I hope they will – regardless of their opinion – understand how deeply I care about them.
This is a little hot for me still so I will probably revisit racism in the classroom again in the future.