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Tackling racist comments

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by danieljpayne85, Oct 15, 2019.

  1. I just had two students walk out of my classroom. I showed them an article about Katherine Johnson, a black woman who worked in the computer pool crunching numbers for the American Mercury space missions. We were looking at how she faced adversity in her career (e.g. access to education, segregation, exclusion from men-only briefings). The students saw the photo of Johnson and said that she wasn't black. They even googled other pictures of Johnson and persisted with their claims. I tried to tackle this from a variety of angles before they lost patience with me and left. I am dealing with consequences as we speak. Please can anyone advise on how I should (or should not) approach this with them?
  2. bajan

    bajan Occasional commenter

    I would have thought it would be up to SLT to deal with students walking out of a lesson.
    tall tales, steely1, caress and 2 others like this.
  3. install

    install Star commenter

    1 Follow school procedures and report the students. They walked out of a lesson without permission. Do not keep this to yourself. Set a detention for truancy - if suitable- and do it with another adult. If not suiitable, have a chat with them but with another adult present. Where did they go? Do they walk out of lessons frequently? Why did they walk out?

    2 Stick to the text in the article. Do not allow them to play games with you. But do allow all students to have an opinion and express their feelings in a calm way.

    3 Show other examples too. Again stick to the text.

    4 The students may be playing you here. Invite another adult in the room for a few lessons to be another pair of eyes and ears.

    Good luck. I suspect the students think you are an easy target. Set a homwork - for all students to bring in articles about people who have overcome adversity.
  4. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    I'd ask SLT if denying that a mixed race person is racist. You could point out that almost every American or Caribbean black person is, in fact, mixed race (e.g. Bob Marley or Jimi Hendrix). I'd tell SLT you expect the pupils to be punished for racist comments, for walking out and for rudeness. I'd go as far as saying you won't allow them back until they have been punished AND have apologised as your trust in teaching them has broken down. Be assertive with both SLT and students.
    hendo2015, steely1 and pepper5 like this.
  5. Bedlam3

    Bedlam3 Star commenter

    Well, it's interesting. Ive just googled her and looking at her photos I wouldn't have referred to her as black nor would I refer to her as white. I would just have called her a woman.
    However, the issue is with the pupils walking out and this they need to be tackled about.
  6. T0nyGT

    T0nyGT Lead commenter

    What did they say was racist? They simply didn't believe that the woman was black? That's not racism. You can of course reprimand them for walking out of your room but you're probably lighting a powder keg to claim they were being racist. If parents get involved you might find yourself in a the very awkward situation of having to explain them them how the actions were racist.

    She is a light skinned black woman with very Anglo features. I understand the confusion. However, walking out of your lesson want the right thing to do and this should be dealt with
    asnac likes this.
  7. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    I agree. If I hadn't read this post first and knew nothing about her background I wouldn't have thought she was black or mixed race either. That's an opportunity for discussion of course, not a denial of the prejudice she apparently suffered (as a woman as well as a woman of colour). But that isn't the main issue, walking out of the lesson is.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
  8. Dunteachin

    Dunteachin Star commenter

    This is a unique situation and could identify you.
    So could your name...

    You could ask the Mods to remove the thread, by reporting your post, if you want.
  9. catmother

    catmother Star commenter

    I've just googled her and I must say that I was expecting her skin tone to be darker as I'm aware of her portrayal in the film Hidden Figures..
    Just a thought,maybe the boys thought she was not black enough? Are they black themselves and maybe thought that this woman could not possibly have faced prejudice because to them,she was white?
  10. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    In which case they know little or nothing about Race relations or Civil Rights in the USA...
    tall tales and hamcguin like this.
  11. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Strange choice of phrase. Since when do pupils 'lose patience' with their teachers?
    Pomza, sbkrobson and FrankWolley like this.
  12. djphillips1408

    djphillips1408 New commenter

    Walking out of a classroom and walking out of a lesson are 2 very different things, if it was the lesson then sure lay down the punishemnt, if they walked out after attepting to do some research after the lesson had finished, well I would almost be on the verge of saying "well done" to them. But kids looking at pictures and making a judgement without reading anything, that's pretty much par for the course in most classrooms. They are not being racist they are just being lazy, because that's what most kids do. Playing the race card here is naive and potentially putting yourself in a minefield, there is no need to act outraged when in reality nothing much really happened here.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2019
    asnac likes this.
  13. hs9981

    hs9981 Lead commenter

    During this period NASA had segregation, for example, separate toilets. Katherine Johnson used the white woman toilets and was unaware of toilets for black females until someone told her one day.

    She was able to use 'white privilege' as most people did not SEE her as black.
    aalajamil likes this.
  14. hs9981

    hs9981 Lead commenter

    hendo2015 likes this.
  15. Bedlam3

    Bedlam3 Star commenter

    I think the pupils in this case were right to challenge the poster. They did not agree with her and could see with their own eyes that KJ was clearly not black. This probably started as a healthy challenge which could have led to an interesting discussion. Why should the pupils accept something they are being told without challenging it?
    Yes, they need to follow the behaviour policy for walking out but I say good on them for questioning what they were told.
    43Meadows likes this.
  16. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    She was mixed race, and regarded as African-American during her lifetime.

    Your statement here is, in my view, ignorant, and probably racist.
  17. mm71

    mm71 Occasional commenter

    +1 for this. I'm dumbfounded by some of the comments on here.
  18. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    This is so wrong.
    Ideally, a kid says "that person is not black" so you say "That's interesting. I guess it's all about perception and identity and experience.".
    And then you carry on with the lesson as planned.

    But you decided to tackle something which is not yours to normalise. Perception of ethincity, or beauty, or build, or whatever-personal perceptions. There are shades, and we each develop our own definitions.

    I'm not surprised the child exited the room. You "tackled" her own deep set definitions rather than expressing any interest in why she would say that. As bad as each other.
    T0nyGT and CWadd like this.
  19. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    I taught a sixth former who was blond and (apparently) white. But her father was black (& yes, she wasn't adopted or the result of an affair). My 'perception' of her was as wrong as that of the person who says 'the world is flat' or 'black people are less intelligent than white people'. No teacher can or should let such comments pass by unchallenged.
    hendo2015 and EmoomE like this.
  20. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    I would never, ever tackle perceived racism ever again.
    I reported it once. the member of staff on the receiving end was interviewed and confirmed my reports. The racist student was suspended. His mates said he wasn't racist and had never said anything racist, ever. The student was allowed back.
    I was adjudged to be a liar by the deputy principal. The member of staff was, quite rightly, annoyed. The student said he would make my life a misery. And did so. The decent kids had their education disrupted, they knew what was going on and were powerless to do anything. The racist had got the deputy principal onside and was untouchable.
    Walking out of a lesson is unacceptable. Make this the issue not the racism. It will get you nowhere.

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