When the Teacher Seems to Have an Issue with Your Race
March 6, 2015
The United States Justice Department released several reports this week in regard to blatant practices used by the Ferguson Police Department in regard to "racial profiling, bigotry and profit-driven law enforcement and court practices." (Salter, 2015, par. 4) Unfortunately, another critical American institution that has also been found guilty of racial profiling and discrimination is the public education system. It has been a problem since Brown vs. the Board of Education and it continues to be ignored
Racial profiling in schools is real, especially in regard to African American male students who are punished disproportionately to their peers of all other races. It is important for you to know that this phenomenon is real, but let's not over generalize because ALL TEACHERS ARE NOT GUILTY OF RACIAL PROFILING OR ACTING INAPPROPRIATELY. However, these problems are prevalent enough that scores of lesson plans and curriculum guides have been written to address the subject matter. There is a chance that at some point in your educational career (even in college), you may run into a less than professional educator who will base your potential for success on the color of your skin. If you believe you have been mistreated for any reason, it is important to know how to respond in order to avoid disciplinary action. If the teacher mistreats YOU, the TEACHER should be the one in need of discipline. We want to make sure that the you do not end up facing consequences for an understandable but inappropriate response based on anger. WE NEED TO KEEP EVERY STUDENT IN SCHOOL. These ideas have been drafted with high school students in mind.
EASIER SAID THAN DONE
One day while sitting with my integrated academics students at the Elkhart Area Career Center, a new student walked into the classroom, looked at me and said, "Damn, I hate niggers." My predominantly white class gasped in horror at the display of disrespect but also watched me very carefully. They were curious as to how I would respond. Well, first, I refused to get angry. Had I responded angirly, I would have become that which he already thought me to be. He was trying to pick a fight but I refuse to jeopardize my job over his ignorance. Once the students saw how gracefully I accepted his insult, they felt compelled to stand up for my honor and the young man had to be personally escorted off campus for his own safety. The other students simply refused to allow his behavior to go without be addressed.
WHAT TO DO WHEN THE TEACHER SEEMS TO TREAT YOU DIFFERENTLY
Understand that it is not necessarily in your head; there could be some underlying issues present. The problem with this is that teachers who hold such beliefs expect less from students who are maligned. This is detrimental to your continued success. So, a disrespectful remark means much more in the classroom. Unfortunately, you and your parents may have to take the lead in educating school officials in this case but this is so important, it cannot be ignored.
Suggestions for success:
1) DO NOT GET ANGRY
Remember -- it is a choice to get angry at the ignorance of others. Choose not to. A teacher who may not treat students equitably may delight in having one removed from the classroom for a few days. That is what can happen if you respond with an angry outburst. In addition, once you become angry, the focus moves away from where it should be -- with the issue of a teacher who is not treating you fairly. By remaining calm, you keep the focus where it needs to be and avoid the possibility of escalating the situation to a point that results in consequences for you. We don't want that to happen.
2) NOTE THE ACTION; INVOLVE YOUR PARENTS
Document the incident.Take notes. Write it down immediately so you remember as many details as possible. Share this information with your parents when you get home.
3) PARENTS: SET AN APPOINTMENT TO MEET WITH THE TEACHER & AN ADMINISTRATOR
This type of learning environment is detrimental to your success (and other students who may silently feel bad) so it is important to try to have this issue addressed and resolved as soon as possible. Ask your parents to set an appointment with the teacher AND an administrator as soon as possible. When you have this meeting, try not to focus on being accusatory but talk more about how the incident made you feel as a student. If you felt uncomfortable, let the teacher know. Be honest.
Everyone in this meeting should develop a plan of action that protects the student's greatest potential for success. All should agree on a reasonable resolution but develop a plan to prevent the act from ever happening again.
4) STAY AWAY FROM FACEBOOK
Now is not the time for revenge. Handle this situation in a professional and discreet manner. Doing so only protects your interests further if the case escalates to the superintendent or court room.
5) IF YOU FEEL THE PRINCIPAL WAS NOT HELPFUL
Remember -- there is a hierarchy of authority in the public school system. Your parents can escalate the concern to the Superintendent or School Board if necessary.
6) MOVING FORWARD
Be diligent in your classes. Act in a manner that commands respect so YOU cannot be held responsible for a teacher's poor actions. Unfortunately, most students incriminate themselves by acting out, becoming angry and/or threatening when involved in difficult situations. Once that happens, the only thing anyone cares about is removing you swiftly from the environment for security reasons.
It is YOUR education; unfortunately, it will NOT run smoothly all of the time. It is important for you to learn how to handle these issues maturely and responsibly. This is the only way to ensure meeting any educational goal you may have. I wish you much success!
Join the conversation on my Facebook page: Education Coffeehouse: Encourage, Engage and Educate
Marsha Kay Bass, ABD
"It is easier to raise strong children than repair broken men. ~Frederick Douglass
Consider counseling that is private and discreet, held online so you can relax in the comfort of your own home: