22 comments on “The White Pass

  1. C’mon Dre. Really? This teacher clearly needs a little more racial sensitivity in working with her students. No sound person with an appreciation of slavery would have ever used this in their class. It’s no worse than simulating a concentration camp.

  2. I doubt this teacher had ill intentions. But it doesn’t excuse her rationale for using an example like this to demonstrate slavery. Teachers are introduced to all sorts of creative teaching methods when they are students themselves. She could use a little more of that creativity instead of embarrassing black kids. Still, it’s a little difficult to prosecute her on embarrassing the kids if they didn’t actually indicate it was embarrassing. According to the article, one of the students volunteered. Unless the other child expressed her objection, it’s difficult to tell how embarrassing it was to her. Nevertheless, the teacher should’ve avoided the whole thing to begin with. But at the very least, she should’ve pulled the students aside to see how they felt afterward. Teachers should be held to a high standard when it comes to our children.

  3. As a white person, I don’t think the teacher was all wrong, but there were definitely some flaws in her approach. I think a real eyeopener for white students would’ve been to involve them in exercise. That would’ve given them a small taste of the reality that black people faced. All the whites who tell blacks to get over slavery have never experienced it themselves. Even though one small classroom exercise could never replace 400+ years of bondage, it certainly adds perspective. For me, it would have anyway.

  4. Like the rest of you, I think the teacher could have relied on a better method to get her message across. However, I can also see the bigger point: declining schools along with attention deficient children force teachers to rely on unique and unconventional methods to captivate their students. Unfortuate for this teacher, she didn’t use the best approach.

  5. If a few people hadn’t made a fuss about this, this teacher would’ve received the “Teacher of the Year” award. Another victory for political correctness!

  6. Bad taste in teaching methods, undoubtedly. But this woman is your typical liberal whtie woman with a cause. This spoken from a liberal white woman with a cause. 🙂

    Seriously, what Bernstein doesn’t understand with race relations is that is not always about what you say and do, it’s also about what you DON’T say and DON’T do. Under no circumstances do you pull a stunt like this in an attempt to teach people about slavery. You wouldn’t do this to demonstrate the experience of a rape victim, a recovering alcholic, or a victim of violence. Why slavery?

    At the best, a documentary, a good book, or a guest speaker would be effective. At the worst, you have this story.

  7. @ Cynthia: Cyn, I’m not arguing on the inappropriateness angle as much as I am signing off on the teacher as far as her intent goes. It was pretty crass, no doubt. But I think at the very worst, you can chalk this up to unelightened racism. Sit her down and explicitly point out why what she did was wrong and what would have been more sensitive. Just being outraged isn’t enough. It never is.

    @ Joanne: “According to the article, one of the students volunteered. Unless the other child expressed her objection, it’s difficult to tell how embarrassing it was to her.

    I made this same observation on another site. The teacher was an idiot for using black students specifically. But – based on the response at the time (or lack thereof) – I’m left to wonder if the student actually gave signs she didn’t want to participate. Silence is not the same thing as saying no, right? At least that’s what can be argued.

    @ Greg: Some people would be quick to say that this teacher had no business teaching about slavery since it was an idea not especially germane to her. I disagree. In fact, I think that whites can often deliver a message about race even better (perhaps not “better”, but “more effectively”) than blacks. When blacks discuss race and our racialized history, I think people see it as some sort of recycled and unoriginal discourse regardless to how groundbreaking some of the background research tends to be. But when a white person – someone whom you’d least expect – is doing the teaching and pontificating, eyes and ears open a little more. At least, that’s from my personal experiences.

    @ Saved: “I can also see the bigger point: declining schools along with attention deficient children force teachers to rely on unique and unconventional methods to captivate their students.

    My point exactly. Unless teachers can come up with fresh and innovative ways to keep interest levels high, they stand to lose at least half their class. This isn’t some idea unique to the kiddies. Even I – as an undergrad – had a tendency to pick and chose professors based on how animated and lively they were. Unfortunately in grad school I was in a cohort; having certain classes I HAD to take. Some of grad school profs were dreadful and it took every ounce of my being to not jump in front of a train after each of their classes.

    @ Anonymous: I don’t this has anything to do with “political correctness.” But it has everything to do with delivering a difficult message in a profound, yet cautious and quality way.

    @ Megan: “You wouldn’t do this to demonstrate the experience of a rape victim, a recovering alcholic, or a victim of violence. Why slavery?

    Hmmm. Interesting question. I think for many people, slavery is often seen from a deeply historical perspective. Even though there is still evidence of slavery happening all over the world today, the infamous story of slavery as an American institution is considered a distant memory. Even the Jewish Holocaust is still considered fresh in our country’s memory. If the teacher would’ve done something to simulate that, she’d be standing in the unemployment line right now. There are far more sensibilities to things that happened within the past several decades than what happened over the past serveral centuries.

    @ Richard: I know my “pass” sounds pretty facetious, but I’m being serious. When it comes to racial reconciliation and growing in love, we’re all in this together. So when one of us screws up (i.e. this teacher), give her some tough love and put her back in line. Running off our anger and looking for attackees is not the way to go, IMO.

  8. Hello Lorraine. Welcome to my spot. Kick your feet up and have a good time. And if you ever feel so inclined, roll up your sleeves and get dirty in here with the rest of us. 🙂

  9. I proudly answer to the moniker “Angry Black Man”, and in my lifetime, that I will always be just that. I don’t believe that, in most cases, the end justifies the means. The teacher may have had good intentions, but, the actual actions, IMO, were not.

    IMO opinion, the race card has to be played wherever the opportunity presents itself. Having seen so much racial discrimination in my 56 years, although I believe we have made a great deal of progress, there is a VERY long road still ahead of us. I don’t believe that we can take the notion of “good intentions” being the same as doing a good job. By doing so, I think that we are missing a very important point, taking us back to the end not justifying the means.

    Thus, giving a pass where it’s not warranted will make the rest of the “non-colored” world bound to think that we, as a people, have finally been satisfied, that racial discrimination is a thing of the past. I agree with you that she should be made to know that the way in which she did things was incorrect, and that it doesn’t warrant and outrage (except from the parent of the traumatized child). However, I just can’t get past the notion that good intentions just don’t get it for me.

    No pass from Freedom. Peace.

  10. Hey Dre,
    Good Post!
    Let me address a couple of points that I noticed.

    “She burst into tears, she was crying and she was horrified,”

    It’s hard to see how that child would be that traumtized, I was subjected to far worse in my school. Every insensitivity that a kid suffers is now traumatizing. As stupid and insensitive as that teacher was, that seems like an overreaction… I wonder why?

    “There’s movies, you don’t actually have to grab two kids and like put shackles on them,”

    “like” I guess she’s more concerned about feelings than grammer. Also, it was tape, not shackles. She seems to want equate a tasteless demonstration with actual slavery. Why would she want to distort reality like that?

    “Mrs. Shand said she’s still not satisfied and is mulling her options”

    Ahh, now we get to the root of the matter-lawsuit. Her traumaiized child will feel much better if her mother is compensated. I’ll bet the same mother will be bitchin’ next year about no buses or a lack of pencils. That is, if she doesn’t just move to another school with her “traumatized” child and sack of money. Good luck to the rest of the students who will now have to stay in a school with a depleted budget. I wonder if that will traumatize them too.

    Sorry if I seem unsensitive here, but this is a case of bad judgement that should have been delt with by a firm scolding of the teacher. This is about money, plain and simple.

  11. Freedom,

    “I don’t believe that we can take the notion of “good intentions” being the same as doing a good job. By doing so, I think that we are missing a very important point, taking us back to the end not justifying the means.”

    I think this is why the “pass” being issued should be examined a little more thoroughly. I don’t see anything wrong with giving out passes for good intentions; as long as there are some other conditions attached. There’s nothing wrong with pardoning behaviors and actions that may appear racist, but are in reality with “good” (or, at least innocent) intentions. For example, I remember in college a guy saying that dogs tend to attack black people more because darker colors attract aggression. Aside from just being completely ignorant to dogs and their vision, he also ignorantly discounted the fact that dogs are trained to attack certain people. Dogs that are not trained but still attack are indiscriminate. Anybody within reach is gonna get bit. Here, this guy made a racially stupid comment, but innocently ignorant nonetheless. Politely explaining how and why he was wrong was enough for him not make such a senseless claim again. But being a white southerner, I get the pleasure of hearing REAL racism from people when they either don’t care that I’m listening or they don’t know it. The rhetoric is just as ignorant, but nowhere near as innocent.

    You can’t expect the ignoramus who doesn’t know jack about dogs to get the same treatment as some of those hillbilly redneck racists, do you?

  12. The teacher was wrong ,first the young girl did not volunteer and should never be put in a position like that PERIOD ,even if she was fully OK with it which she was not ,she could really bring some deep issues to surface for the young lady , If it were another RACE in which such deviant horrible heart wrentching actions were practiced on ,an example ,the Nazi s tourturing people, would it be Ok to do that re inactment in class????? NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Talking about it , debating it , learning about it can be done is so many productive ways .Teacher needs to go in the corner for a time out!! and re think her methods.

  13. Hey Dre,
    I just wanted to say “thanks” for the shout out. But to be completely honest, the part where you said, “has never himself harbored ill feelings towards blacks. ” isn’t entirely accurate. After I left Emerson Jr High, I had a lot of misplaced bad feelings toward blacks. I, like a lot of my black counterparts, blamed the race, not the individual people that had treated me badly. My epiphany came over the course of a few years when my logic couldn’t deal with the conflict of blaming all black people but not wanting to be blamed for the actions of all whites. As hard as I tried, I knew in my heart that this was simply not fair to the blacks that had defended me or befriended me. The fact that I knew, respected, and liked a lot of black people finally wore me down to the only truth I could except. That every race has it’s bad actors, including mine, and blaming everyone for the actions of a few was unfair and unkind to the majority. I thank you for your compliment, but I am undeserving. I’m simply a person who realized the error of his ways and am now rewarded with friends like you.

  14. Dag. I got owned. Thanks for the clarification Hippie.

    I guess white people really are bad after all. So you black folks, carry on with your antipathy toward white folks. Sorry for the inconvenience of this silly and long winded post.

  15. @Megan I hope that didn’t come across as outrage. I don’t see it as a need for anyone to get up in arms about it. Her intentions were good, but the end result was a child being “scared”. I guess that it must be seen through the eyes of one who has been on the wrong end of the stick too many times. Consider the fact that she “shackled” the Black girls and not the whites. Consider that she made a Black girl feel like a slave.

    It’s the subtleties of racism and discrimination that bother me most. I can almost guarantee that this teacher had not a clue that what she was doing was wrong, or at the very least inappropriate. The whole scenario seems to have been orchestrated by one who has no idea what it feels like to be “on the wrong end of the stick”. Knowing what that feels like, I would never find myself conducting doing such an experiment.

    Let me try it this way: nooses, shackles, and vicious dogs are a no-no as concerns people of color. History (Bull Connor, Jim Crow, strange fruit) dictates that “they should never be placed in the same room at the same time”. But . . . that’s just me.

    I think that kudos (the pass) should be given for “good means” producing “good ends”, if you will. Peace.

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