Chicago boy called a slaveRecently, my son, a second grade gifted student at a Chicago Public School, was called a “slave” by his teacher when he hit another boy in the arm because a girl told him to.

“That makes you a slave. You did what somebody else told you to do so you’re a slave” were her exact words to my seven-year old. In a situation where a child behaved in a way that made him “a follower,” he somehow became a “slave.”

When he got home, my son passionately recounted the story to me, saying:

“I’m not a slave, I’m a human being and I deserve to be respected like one. She might as well have just called me a nigger. It’s like back in the day during segregation when the white people would say whatever they wanted to black people and call them names and hurt their feelings. That’s what she did to me, she hurt my feelings.”

And I was enraged. How dare she? My son’s teacher is also African American, but that brings no comfort. It does nothing to negate the fact that she demeaned my son in front of his peers, degraded him or made him question, even if only for a moment, if the fact that he is black is a horrible thing. In an instant, much of the hard work that has been put into making sure he remained positive about who he is was diminished.

My child is a brilliant young man who doesn’t take many things at face value. He challenges popular opinions and theories, and thinks outside of the box. He is also very much aware of what being a young black boy means, and what people of color have overcome in this country. He acknowledges the fact that, because of this, he may face some challenges in life. Therefore, it is my constant struggle to keep that knowledge, those ideals, our history, and his sense of self away from negatively affecting his development and growth.

When I spoke to the offending teacher about her words to my son or the impact it had on hm, she felt no regret. She actually told me, “Someone has to instill some fear in these children and keep them out of jail,” as if she was doing him a favor. I was flabbergasted! For an educator to think that the only way our children will be productive members of society is by scaring them in this way is ridiculous.

I send my son to school to be educated so he can be successful. I do not send him to school to be harmed or degraded in a public forum, or for him to be hurt by a poorly-chosen words that cut him down. We have a responsibility as parents and educators to build children up, keep them informed, cultivate conscious and responsible individuals, empower and arm them with knowledge. We should never say things to break them down, dampen their spirits, or be offensive to them, even in the spirit of saving them from themselves.

What I learned from this experience is that the system does not necessarily work for children and their parents. It’s not truly set up for our children to be supported and encouraged while they are away from us. I’m disheartened, but not discouraged, and as long as there is breath in my body I will fight for my child and be his biggest advocate.

We are to be reminded though, that every child doesn’t have an advocate, or a voice as loud as my own, but they deserve the exact same respect. It is when we take that into account that we realize this system is flawed, needs to be reviewed, and change needs to come quickly. Indeed, “It takes a village to raise a child” but when the village chief breaks them down, we’re left to build them back up.

My son is not a “slave” for making a mistake in hitting another child. He recognizes his wrongdoing and apologized to both the other boy and his teacher. But this experience left a bigger scar on him than he deserved.

 

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  • Sincerely_Me

    *Agape* I’m appalled by this story especially because this teacher is blind-sighted to a point in which she felt she was giving some sort of reality check. I understand if she wanted to argue that he shouldn’t be egged on by someone especially in situations of negative physical discourse, but it was not her place as an educator as well as a woman to utter those words. We as women are the very foundation for all our children, whether they’re blood related or not. She should’ve have been fined. She should have apologized in front of the student body as well. Teachers like her are the reason why my mom placed me in a private elementary school.

  • Socially Maladjusted

    @Shanon Martin

    “My child is a brilliant young man who doesn’t take many things at face value. He challenges popular opinions and theories, and thinks outside of the box.”

    Beautiful –

    couldn’t ask more of any child, and if you’ve raised one like this we couldn’t ask any more of you.

    “What I learned from this experience is that the system does not necessarily work for children and their parents.”

    I hate it that people have to learn this by painful experience and it hurts more when they learn it from dealing with other black people, acting on behalf of the system – who use ‘tough love’ rationalisations to justify their conduct.

    The only thing the teacher taught your son is that he needs to be stronger than the teacher next time – not how to resolve conflict without force or aggression.

    She should be re-trained to use gentler disciplinary methods.

  • I do agree. Teachers should be conscious of what they say to their students and never publicly humiliate them. At an impressional age bad experiences can scar them for a long time time.

    Though I agree that it is wrong at how your son was approached by his teacher and I don’t believe in that no one should ever be publicly chastise, I am a little biased.

    I have worked in the in and out of the school system for the last couple of years and I am surprise how some(not all) African-American children are violent, have obscene language and disrespectful in general. This is from grades pre-k-12th grade. What surprises me more is how many of their parents always come running to the aid of these children every time a teacher or someone with authority says something to them them about their behavior. They by pass the part that the child reeked havoc in the classroom and disrupted the class and more worried about the tone of the teacher voice. We treat our kids sometimes that their behavior is acceptable and they should not be corrected by others. I don’t necessarily agree that fear should be installed in the kids but respect should be. Sometimes we raise our kids to believe they are invincible and that they are untouchable but the truth of the matter is kids are going to jail and prison at a younger age and the law don’t care our kids.

    I not saying that anyone should be able to talk to anyone else’s child any kind of way, I a true believer that everyone has the right to be respected at any age. There are some horrible teachers as well and I am not trying to excuse any type of behavior .

    • Ladyshabazz

      I assure you that it isnt just African-American children are violent. In no shape or form should the teacher have called him a slave. Please stop being a slave to race biased statistics and really look at what is going on here. People.love to use statistics to justify UNJUST actions.

    • You are 100% right it’s not just African-American children who are violent and I agree what she said was wrong, as I noted before.No one should ever disrespected man,woman or child or any race,cultural, religion,etc. But I was just stating that we have to be more aware when it comes to our children because we live in an UNJUST world. I was just expressing what I have seen personally with different schools,in different cities and states. I was just stating that we sometimes have to be conscious of how we protect our children.

    • JerseyGirl

      Lady Shabazz, I dont know the statistics so Im not going to compare black children to white children. Being that I have only worked in Mexican and black school districts, I will say from my experience, too many of our children have behavioral problems. Ive worked in a preK through kindergarten school with 180+ children. On payroll, there was one school nurse, 1 full time social worker, 1 part time social worker, 2 part time speech therapists, and 2 behavorial specialists. The area districts are in the process of building a school for those with behavioral issues for children as young as five. On average there is between 1-2 children with these problems per class. NOT PER GRADE. All came from poor, single parent households.

      People who dont work with children dont know the issues that present day children face. But tend to get upset when you inform them of the issues. Yes, the truth hurts, but calling it a lie doesnt make it go away. Our boys have issues that are not being corrected because when it is placed at the forefront many want to point out what the white folks are doing. Who cares? Let’s accept the truth and fix our mess.

  • Socially Maladjusted

    @Shanon Martin

    “My child is a brilliant young man who doesn’t take many things at face value. He challenges popular opinions and theories, and thinks outside of the box.”

    Beautiful –

    couldn’t ask more of any child, and if you’ve raised one like this we couldn’t ask any more of you.

    What I learned from this experience is that the system does not necessarily work for children and their parents.

    I hate it that people have to learn this by painful experience and it hurts more when they learn it from dealing with other black people, acting on behalf of the system – who use ‘tough love’ rationalisations to justify their conduct.

    The only thing the teacher taught your son is that he needs to be stronger than the teacher next time – not how to resolve conflict without force or aggression.

    She should be re-trained to use gentler disciplinary methods.

  • Socially Maladjusted

    “My child is a brilliant young man who doesn’t take many things at face value. He challenges popular opinions and theories, and thinks outside of the box.”

    Beautiful –

    couldn’t ask more of any child, and if you’ve raised one like this we couldn’t ask any more of you.

    What I learned from this experience is that the system does not necessarily work for children and their parents.

    I hate it that people have to learn this by painful experience and it hurts more when they learn it from dealing with other black people, acting on behalf of the system – who use ‘tough love’ rationalisations to justify their conduct.

    The only thing the teacher taught your son is that he needs to be stronger than the teacher next time – not how to resolve conflict without force or aggression.

    She should be re-trained to use gentler disciplinary methods.