“Never, ever look the other way.”
Edited by Reagan Skaggs.
Transcript for Forty Years an Educator
I probably over the years have had a couple incidents where someone used a racist term in class because there were no people of color in that classroom, and so they felt safe in doing it. And a lot of times, kids will test you to see if you’re going to say something, and then I always wonder – it’s like being – having a kid come in to your last class of the day wearing some t-shirt with some offensive, crude remark on it, realizing that no one challenged them all day long and sending them to the bathroom to turn the shirt inside-out because I’m not going to, “You can’t do that.” You know, I think in those times where I’ve had – maybe two or three times ever in my teaching career where someone said something that was, you know, derogatory and inappropriate, and I just corrected them. “How would you feel if you were alone somewhere? You were the only white person. And then people did that to you? I mean, doesn’t that Golden Rule thing apply? Don’t you really want people to treat you the way you would treat them? Why would you say something so crude, or offensive, or racist, or whatever else it is?”
That’s one thing that, you know, forty years as an educator has taught me – that, you know, you don’t let anything go unchallenged when it comes to something like that, you know, that you just say, you know, “That’s inappropriate,” or, “Don’t talk like that,” but you never, ever look the other way. Then, if they want to argue with you, you can take it to the next level. Usually, a good scolding solves the problem. At least they know where you stand.
When you challenge that one person, there might be someone else in there who may think – be thinking about doing something, and then suddenly, they give up on that idea. And then, maybe, eventually you win them over. But changing people and their prejudice is not easy.
Hold a Conversation
Can you imagine leading a conversation about this story? Where? With whom? What kinds of questions would you pose? (See How to use the questions for reflection for one approach.) Please email your questions to us or post them in the comment box for our consideration. If you use them in an actual discussion, let us know how the conversation went.