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“I Am Not Your Nigger”: Racial Slurs Run Amok in Schools Across America

When I went on break today and checked my Facebook page, I began reading the usual stories of love, tragedy, comedy, politics, and spirituality that run the gamut of my feed. However, my jaw dropped when I read this post. (I’ve deleted names to protect privacy.)

Got a call from the deans office at my son’s school… little white girl called my son a nigga..

Dean: {Your son] is not in trouble, there was an incident in school where two people were fighting over a pencil and he was caught between them both. He asked them to stop, but the little girl wouldn’t.  Because he was getting hit, your son grabbed the pencil they were fighting over and threw it in the garbage. So she [the little girl] proceeded to call him a “nigga”…I just also want to let you know, although I’m not supposed to tell you this, but I know the family… the dad lost his job and it’s a stressful time for them and the little girl was in my office crying for 45 minutes”

Me: silence ( trying to come up with the words to respond).

I say “ok” and hang up the phone… cause this is not over… what kind of administration makes an excuse for someone hurling racial slurs at anyone? I’m completely sure if my little nappy-headed “nigger” son had put his hands back on her when she put hers on him, I would be called into a conference and he would be suspended and also labeled… they obviously don’t know his mother…… well they’re about to find out!

This really happened!  As much as I try to see the glass as half-full and as much as I tell myself that our public education system is improving, over and over again I’m met with the antithesis of my innate optimism. This student who was called a “nigga” in his classroom was actually attempting to peacefully diffuse a tense situation and scored high on the “do the right thing o-meter.” Yet he was disrespected and disgraced and his parent was asked to understand the disrespect and disgrace because of the offender’s white privilege! Is this what our school taxes are going towards?

Unfortunately, racial slurs being hurled at Black students by White students is very much alive and thriving in schools across America. According to the Daily Beast, a federal civil lawsuit filed by a mother against the Grand Rapids School District claims that, despite her son being continually called a “nigger and other slurs” by classmates, the administration there appeared to have let the racial ridicule continue unremitted.  Moreover, her son “has suffered retaliation” after she spoke up for him, “including being suspended, falsely accused of misconduct, and stripped of behavioral points.”

The White student, the lawsuit claims, continues to call the a “nigger…without restraint” and “has not been subjected to the same severity of punishment which [sic] suffered for a lesser misconduct.”

And I remember reading last year around this time about a groups of white girls who wore shirts to school that spelled out the word NIGGER — as if that was perfectly okay — and people were actually defending it! This blatant racism incited some news coverage but, as with most cases when a Black student is wronged at the hands of a White student, the matter was quickly swept under the rug.

In the heat of my anger, dismay, and frustration about what I’d just read on Facebook, my mind went to LeBron James’ poignant response to the racial slurs painted across the gates of his home just yesterday. “If this is [going] to shed light and continue to keep the conversation [about race in America] going on my behalf, then I’m okay with it,” James said. “But it just goes to show that racism will always be a part of the world, a part of America…No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough. We got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African-Americans until we feel equal in America.” I couldn’t agree with LeBron more.

We tell our children to go to school and be their absolute best, to work hard so they can have a successful and fulfilling life. That’s how my Facebook friend raised her son. Yet I’m left with disheartening questions: are administrators doing their best to protect students of color from racism? What does a parent do in a situation like this? Who is to be held accountable for what happened to my friends’s child today? These are serious inquiries and we — the community, the parents, the school, the students involved — need answers right now.

What do you think?

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