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.
Wrong! 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
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
- 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.
- 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
You 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.
Take 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:
- Living uneducated about racism In a world where you deal with people of a variety of races all the time ?
- Or perhaps living as a victim of racism ?
- 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.”
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.
The earliest Tarzan movies was a new medium to poison the American mind. They promoted several underlying themes which set racist values in cement:
- 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.
- 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.
- Popular Seattle Teacher Forced Out for Teaching Kids About Racism – Yahoo! News (dogmaandgeopolitics.wordpress.com)
- Teachers protest transfer of colleague (blogs.seattletimes.com)
- Popular Seattle Teacher Forced Out for Teaching Kids About Racism – Yahoo! News (aboriginalpress.wordpress.com)
- Growing protest at teacher transfer heads to Seattle School Board (seattlepi.com)
- Teacher of Center School race curriculum to be transferred (blogs.seattletimes.com)
- Why All Teachers are teachers of ICT Skills… (asvlearningandteaching.wordpress.com)
- Supporters protest Seattle teacher’s transfer (seattletimes.com)
- Frank talk about touchy subjects best lesson of all (seattletimes.com)