Monday, February 1, 2016

Day 93: The Early Bird Catches The Racist Worm

We are contractually obligated to be at our posts at 6:45.  I usually roll into work about an hour before that.  There is almost no one in the building when I get there, and that's how I like it.

I know how I operate in terms of work and I know that if I don't get everything done for the day before the students arrive, I won't get it done.  So my alarm goes off at 4:30 and I'm at school by 5:45.  I deal with any remnants of the day before, make the copies I need to make and mentally prepare for the day.

This morning, as I approached the building, I saw a piece of paper taped to the front door.  When I went to examine it, I found the following:

I should take this opportunity to say that the district in which I teach is predominantly African American.  I'm not even sure where to begin with this flyer.  This man has a history of similar controversial signs and made the news a few years ago for this gem:
"Please pray for them. They have guns!!!!! A message from reverend Sheldon Stoudemire."

He posted these around the community, stapled them to utility poles and signs in the various neighborhoods.

This time, he taped the first poster to the door of our school.

I am thankful that I saw it, was able to take it down and gave it to our administration before out students arrived.

I could add statistics here about how school shootings are perpetrated predominantly by white students.  I could talk about how this "Reverend" is himself an African American male.   I could downplay the situation by making fun of his grammar and photocopy skills.

I could mention how disastrous it could have been for students to arrive this morning to a building that many already perceive as being on the wrong side of the race relations (regardless of the incredible effort that is put in by the faculty, staff and administration to counteract that perception) and have them find a paper of happy white children asking God for protection from the violent blacks.

Instead, I will again be thankful that I managed to take it down.

There are many disadvantages that I have being a white male trying to teach African American students.  I try very hard to understand the situations from which my students come, be they cultural, racial, economic or social.

I know that my background is very different from many of those with whose care I have been charged.  Over the past few years, I have become much more conscious of those differences and tried very hard to build relations with my students.  I don't sit backwards on my chair and try to "rap with them" as you would see in a movie.  I am authentic to me and my experiences while attempting to empathize and understand theirs.

I know that I cannot shield them from the ugliness in the world and in many cases, they have experienced more than I can understand.

But I can shield them from this.

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