Taking The Negative || Yahoo News Edition – Popular Teacher Forced Out for Teaching About Racism

We are in the social studies class and we are reading narratives about Africans from the point of view of Europeans. They are negative caricature all which focus around the laziness and biological inferiority. We even read a story (Tarzan) that are steeped with then current thoughts on Eugenics and Social Darwinsim. It seems a white baby raised by animals/apes in the jungle of the dark continent was superior to the natives there. Everyone in the class is white except MrMary, every time he raises his hand the pressure and tension in the air is palatable.

Another day another class this time we are reading Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The teachers stick to the script for the most part but there is a tension in the air and I am the source of it. Not that the teachers would say anything wrong, not that they are racist. But there is a strange guilt they feel whenever they touch upon issues like slavery and colonialism.

Some of the comments made by the students are infuriating: “They choose to sit in the dust naked or with loin-clothes. The didn’t believe in science and  weren’t doing anything with the land we had a better use for it.” but I am used to be infuriating on the way home, being stopped by cops, on the TV seeing everyone who looks like me a criminal. My own TV hero Clint Eastwood, who I loved in the Westerns, even he disappointed me at some point:

so the discomfort and infuriation are no issue.

But you move on right? Eventually you go back to those teachers and say thank you for at least talking about it ? Thank you for trying to navigate the dangerous waters of political correctness and let the class  know that my ancestors who ever they were, weren’t lazy savages that ended up having a better life once the Europeans woke them up from the genetic torpor that reduced them to apes.

enhanced-buzz-14430-1366953737-3Wrong! Well that’s what happens when you’re the single black student in all of your classes. When your a white student and not even the only one, in a class that talks about racism, you file a complaint about feeling uncomfortable and the class gets shut down and the teacher moved.

Yahoo News Breaking Story


Popular Seattle Teacher Forced Out for Teaching Kids About Racism

As a senior at Seattle’s Center School, an alternative arts intensive public high school with a stellar academic performance record, Zak Meyer was thrilled to land a spot in Jon Greenberg’s “Citizenship and Social Justice” class.  Space in Greenberg’s popular humanities class is coveted. Hundreds of current and former pupils credit the teacher with creating a curriculum that is “life-changing,” “highly transformative,” and “a highlight of lots of students’ time at the school.”

It turned out to be everything Meyer had hoped for.

“We’ve been diving into stuff that I will be dealing with in my freshman year of college, and getting deeply into issues of our society,” Meyer told the Seattle Post Intelligencer. “I am a minority in that I have a disability. The course preaches tolerance of all backgrounds. It opens the world to me, not just from my point of view but in understanding the views of others…”

Students study speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and invite local community leaders to speak in the class. They are prompted to talk honestly about racism, class disparity, and privilege in their day to day lives at the start of every session. Assignments include analyzing “the way media and society fetishize both women and people of color.”

But the provocative discussions that Meyer found so revelatory abruptly ended a few months ago when a female white student accused the teacher of creating an “intimidating educational environment.”

The Seattle School Board agreed and decided to transfer Greenberg to another school next year. The board also banned future use of the Courageous Conversations teaching method employed by Greenberg to address issues of race and gender.

The structure of the curriculum has been an integral part of Greenberg’s class for the last decade.

Some Important Points

  1. District officials have revealed little about the nature of the complaint. The parents who filed the grievance against Greenberg have remained silent about what their daughter found offensive.
  2. Seattle Schools Superintendent Jose Banda said, moving forward, parents need to be told ahead of time if a classroom activity could cause “a high degree of emotion for students or potential distress.”

Taking the Negative

35mm-negative-filmYou may not have heard of it, neither have I, but the Courageous Conversations curriculum developed by Glenn Singleton invites teachers and students to deliberately push beyond polite conversation in order to get to the heart of controversial and often incendiary issues dealing with social inequities. According to Singleton  “An indication that we are engaging in an authentic conversation about race is when people can share their racial truths derived from multiple perspectives. The fact that we come to the conversation with diverse racial realities and experiences causes us discomfort.” This is due in part to the fact that many believe racism no longer exists, according to Singleton.

I find it an interesting matter of choice. I had no choice but to accept all the discomfort. Actually I don’t know the kind of person I would be today without being moulded by all the discomfort I have had in my life.  If I complained when I was a student about feeling uncomfortable in a class on colonialism, it would be laughable.

ima_________gesTake the negative of that picture, a white girl feels uncomfortable and a whole class that has been changing people’s life for the better, for about a decade gets shut down!!! The teacher is going to be replaced. Why didn’t she asked to be switched out into another course? What was she offended about?

I wish I had that kind of power or I wish that the route to get that power didn’t involve police batons and hospital trips


I understand the discomfort, or rather got an eye into it from my Caucasian friends. It was very refreshing to talk past the point of the discomfort to get at the heart of the matter.  I don’t know what that girl felt, and I cannot be upset for her complaining, I just marvel at the power of her complaint. Police Brutality seemed to be a serious consideration after non minorities where getting seriously hurt during the Occupy Movements. When I as a high school kid complained to some teachers about being harassed by cops I was dismissed.

Classes like this are amazing! They help foster better communication for us and many past and former students have expressed how much its changed their life. If the school board continues on this track it would seems that one’s person’s discomfort is worth more than many peoples outrage. It doesn’t set a good precedent for education or for opening a dialogue.

What causes more harm than good down the road:

  1. Living uneducated about racism In a world where you deal with people of a variety of races all the time ?
  2. Or perhaps living as a victim of racism ?
  3. Or feeling uncomfortable when white Privilege is discussed

Of course, it makes people uncomfortable. The class would talk about ‘white privilege.’ I felt uncomfortable, because I did not know the extent of it,” Meyer (another student) said to the Seattle Post Intelligencer‎. Now that he’s taken the class, he said, he’s become aware of the unintentional racism that exists against minorities.

Classmate Rachel Livengood, who is also white, added, “The discomfort was with ourselves, not with the class . . . Experiencing discomfort is normal.”

Notes –

(From Wiki)
In “Taking Tarzan Seriously”  Marianna Turgovnick writes that since Tarzan was raised as an ape, he thinks and acts like an ape. However, instinctively he is human and he resorts to being human when he is pushed to. The reason of his confusion is that he does not understand what the typical white male is supposed to act like. His instincts eventually kick in when he is in the midst of this confusion, and he ends up dominating the jungle. In Tarzan, the jungle is a microcosm for the world in general in 1912 to the early 1930s. His climbing of the social hierarchy proves that the European white male is the most dominant of all races/sexes, no matter what the circumstance.

From (Here)
The earliest Tarzan movies was a new medium to poison the American mind. They promoted several underlying themes which set racist values in cement:

  1. Africans – black people – are savages and to be used as labor. You don’t see what they get out of this, nor do they seem to mind. The dissenting ones are the enemy.
  2. Black men will happily abduct a white woman at the first opportunity, and without question to rape her. They must be killed to protect her purity.


Taking The Negative Movie Edition: Olympus has Fallen

olympus-composite3I saw Olympus Has Fallen starring Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart with my friends El Viejo, the Angel of death and his lady and the ever present ever flowing Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey.

Terrorist storm the White House and manage to take it and hold the president Hostage. There was one scene it was of the American Flag full of bullets holes and burned, a terrorist takes it down and unceremoniously throws it down on the lawn. The scene touched me as an American, that flag actually means something to me. I tried to imagine what it would be like if someone just came to American stormed and defaced the white House took the president hostage, how awful I’d feel. It was a sobering thought that really touched me. Someone in the back row  said out loud: “That’s just fucked up. That’s just wrong” and we all nodded or chimed in with that sentiment.

After the movie, on the way back to our point of departure we all talked about how bad-ass Gerard Butler was   and how it would suck if someone decided to do that to America. That then is when it hit me, like a kick to the scrotum. Mentally I doubled over in pain when from the dark recesses of my mind the  last hundred years of US foreign Affairs arose.

Taking the Negative

ohotosImagine that you were not an American or of a European  (Eastern or Western). Imagine centuries of your ancestors living closer to the equator than the frozen wasteland that was home to the frost giants and Norse gods of olden time, has given you an over-abundance of melanin in your skin. Imagine if you will a regular summer day, your wearing clothes that help keep your body cool , and all of a sudden someone storms the capital of your country, and  holds your president hostage and demands a ransom. Or perhaps they install a new government, or perhaps they just fuck shit up and leave

Unfortunately that isn’t fiction for a lot of people around the world in Latin American, Africa, and parts of Asia. Can I share with you some quotes?

William Blum, USA writer from the book, “Rogue State”:

“From 1945 to the end of the [20th] century, the USA attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements struggling against intolerable regimes. In the process, the USA caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair”.


Michael Krenn, quoting the USA chargé d’Affairs in 1929;

“Until the Venezuelan people could be trusted to make the right decisions concerning their political and economic direction – and that time was deemed to be in the very distant future – it was best for all concerned that they be kept safe from democracy.”


CIA document, dated 10 September 1973 about Chile:

“The coup attempt will begin September 11. All three branches of the armed forces and the Carabineros are involved in this action. A declaration will be read on Radio Agricultura at 7 A.M. on 11 September.”


Jack Kubisch, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. Testimony before the USA House Subcommittee on Inter American Affairs 20 September 1973 about the Chilean coup:

“Gentlemen, I wish to state as flatly and as categorically as I possibly can that we did not have advance knowledge of the coup that took place on September 11.”

The Reality

 “Two centuries ago, a former European colony decided to catch up with Europe. It succeeded so well that the United States of America became a monster, in which the taints, the sickness and the inhumanity of Europe have grown to appalling dimensions”
― Frantz Fanon

chart taken from here: http://www.krysstal.com

Year Country Reason Given
1949 Syria Communism
1949 Greece Communism
1952 Cuba None
1953 Iran None
1953 British Guyana None
1954 Guatemala Communism
1955 South Vietnam Communism
1957 Haiti Haiti is near the USA
1958 Laos None
1959 Laos None
1960 South Korea Communism
1960 Laos None
1960 Ecuador Communism
1963 Dominican Republic Business Interests
1963 South Vietnam None
1963 Honduras Communism
1963 Guatemala Communism
1963 Ecuador None
1964 Brazil Communism
1964 Bolivia Communism
1965 Zaire None
1966 Ghana None
1967 Greece None
1970 Cambodia None
1970 Bolivia None
1972 El Salvador Communism
1973 Chile Communism
1975 Australia None
1979 South Korea None
1980 Liberia Democracy
1982 Chad None
1983 Grenada Democracy
1987 Fiji Democracy
2002 Venezuela None
2004 Haiti Fraudulent elections
2009 Honduras Attempted to Change Constitution

My Dilemma as An American


As a Haitian American I have a few dilemmas some other Americans wont have.  Well there is the history of American Involvement and occupation of haiti  for 19 years. Do you like that post of the Marine storming and killing Haitians.

In September 1915, the United States Senate ratified the Haitian-American Convention, a treaty granting the United States security and economic oversight of Haiti for a 10-year period. Representatives from the United States wielded veto power over all governmental decisions in Haiti, and Marine Corps commanders served as administrators in the provinces. Local institutions, however, continued to be run by Haitians, as was required under policies put in place during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson

I remember in the 80’s in NYC, a lot of people were saying that Haitians brought AIDS to the US.  Actually Arsenio Hall made a joke about it if I remember correctly. A lot of people are anti-immigrant in the US which is odd to me. I kind of on the one hand love being American but kind of feel that the long terms reason I am in America is because of gross atrocities committed by the American government in Haiti. (Btw do you think the Marines who were sent to Haiti  a few decades before civil rights saw “us” as people ?, do you know what that meant as far as treatment of the people under American occupation?)

The Confusion Doesnt Stop There

It’s no surprise racism still exists here. Well it’s no surprise for me. There are people still saying that slavery was good for blacks , gave them food and a roof over their head. I see America in a very different way from many other Americans


“If you’re black, you got to look at America a little bit different. You got to look at America like the uncle who paid for you to go to college, but who molested you.”

I’ve have often wondered how many of the black soldiers felt to go to war for your country and then return home to be treated by shit by it. I wonder a lot about patriotic duty vs social and legal treatments.

Wrapping It Up

It’s amazing how one person’s fictional movie situation is a nightmare living by millions, and that almost no one in a theatre full of people all from somewhere else think of that. I am a proud American, but there is a lot that I am conflicted about, there are many episodes of our history that trouble me. There are things that still trouble me. But that’s life I suppose.

Coincidentally I read this article today In the Guardian

The racism that fuels the ‘war on terror’