Friday, March 11, 2005

Say What?

I teach a bunch of yuppie, snobby, racist kids. We have been reading Maniac Magee, a wonderful novel in which the overriding theme is racial tolerance. It's a phenomenal Newbery Honor Book. I've had a group of kids in this literature circle for about 7 weeks now and they just finished the book. I have carefully been cultivating this group to be a racially tolerant group of people who look at people for what's on the inside...people who try to understand where other people are coming from: that not everyone's background involves a stay at home mom and trips to Disney World in the summers. Et cetera.
Based on their fabulous conversations and meaningful discussions thus far, I was feeling pretty darned proud of my accomplishment. I mean, this was teacher of the year material. Whenever the principal would walk down the hall, I would wave her in and "invite" her to be wowed by the kids' depth of thinking and maturity and high level ideas that I had facilitated. [Read: write me up something good on my evaluation, please.]
Until today. Thank goodness she didn't come by today. Today, during our grand finale literature circle, a scene I had envisioned as everyone joining for a group hug with tears in their eyes and goals to go out and seek peace in the world, I realized that things aren't always as they seem. You simply cannot change everything that a kid comes to you with.

Our discussion director began with her question:
DD: "What do you think the author's message was in this book? What were we supposed to get out of it?"
Wonderful kid: "That people are all the same on the inside. Maniac was really able to show both sides of town how they could get along."
Me: [beaming proudly, nodding emphatically]
?*!%& Kid: You know, I really think it's good for black people to be mixed with us.
Me: [mouth falls open] Are you kidding me? I thought, staring in disbelief.
DD: "What?? That is so....so...." she looked at me for help. "Why would you say that?"
Me: [mouth still open]
?*!%& Kid: "Well, you know. It's important for like, basketball and stuff." He giggled. The rest of us looked at him like we wanted to punch him.

Seriously. In 2005. Today, actually. Basketball. Basketball! What is wrong with these kids? Their parents? I'm still blown away.

4 comments:

seeingdouble said...

What's wrong with people? (I realize that was rhetorical, but I feel the need to babble tonight) Well, every race has members who hate other races. I meet black people every day who think I must be Satan incarnate because I'm white, even though I'm a Yankee liberal who thinks all of us should be treated equal. There are dumbasses who think black people are the lowest form of being, along with the Jews, Chinese, Arabs, Hispanics, and any other non-WASPs. TX has more than it's fair share, and that kid's parents should be beaten for teaching such stupidity. Honestly, I'm tired of hatred, and it goes both ways. I don't teach my children to judge others, I don't judge others but these asshats who do make life miserable for the rest of us.

panthergirl said...

Amazing, isn't it? And here we think we've come so far.... NOT. I work in a global corporation where there is not one non-white person, and not one female, in any upper management position. Astounding.

Dree said...

I've been going through something similar with my first graders this year (I have 24 kids, only one is black). I actually had one girl tell the other kids, "Don't play with her, she has bugs because she doesn't wash her hair." Her mother told her that. It's unbelievable what people think.

Bubba said...

Well, where shall I start? Dallas has a terrible record on race and is pretty much divided by the Trinity River. Teaching where you do, somewhat in the "sticks," it doesn't surprise me. But, I think Dallas is the worst city in TX for that kinda of BS. Growing up where I did in a white suburb in Houston, my friends were not tolerant of that BS, nor did I experience it.

But, on the other hand, after living here in NY, I laugh at people that think TX is a racist hotbed. I think most people think that racism is a Southern problem. But African Americans in NY will tell you they can't catch a cab, and the neat "ethnic" neighborhoods in NY is a perfect example of segregation dating back to the days where we didn't like this group because they were Irish or Italian. Given that our Scottish friend was told on the subway to go back to Germany because of her accent, I don't think you can safely say things are better up here.

So, I think that folks like seeingdouble that think TX is worst in race relations don't really understand the depth of the problem, nor are interested in it. It is easy to pin it all on the south.