Black Spanish Teacher Fired For Using The Word Negro

If you’re a Spanish teacher, you may want to be careful when teaching colors to your students.

Petrona Smith, 65,was fired from New York City’s PS 211 in March 2012 after a seventh-grader reported the alleged insult. According to Smith’s lawsuit, she was using the word “negro” for the color black, since she was teaching a lesson on colors. She is now suing the city.

“They haven’t even accounted for how absurd it is for someone who’s black to be using a racial slur to a student,” said Shaun Reid, Smith’s attorney. “Talk about context! There’s a lot of things wrong here.”

On top of using the word “negro”, Smith was also accused of calling her students “failures.”

But in court papers she claims that second insult was also a misinterpretation. Smith allegedly asked students who failed a test to move to the back of the room, but says she didn’t use call them failures. Smith also explained to investigators that the Spanish word for a black person was “moreno”.

She added that she’d been verbally abused by her charges, including being called a “f—ing monkey,” a “cockroach” and a “n—r,” but had never stooped to their level.

According to the New York Post, a 2011 investigation substantiated the student’s undated claims based on accounts from four seventh-grade witnesses, even though the student’s own parents said he’d lied about the event.

A spokeswoman for the city Law Department said, “We have received the papers and will review them.”

 

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  • Anthony

    In any language that is spoken in multiple countries and cultures, there are going to be multiple exceptions to any rule. The job of a public school language teacher is to give the students a basic grammatical and cultural a framework that will only be filled after years of work. That is why being fired over the use of a common, non- obscene word is just foolish.

  • talaktochoba

    clearly the administration is after this woman for some reason unmentioned in the article, because so far things are being conjured up against her and then reinterpreted to suit…

  • http://gravatar.com/addassamari addassamari

    This is the height of the ridiculousness about race, colour, and ethnicity. What was she to have done when teaching colours in a Spanish language class? Darn fortunate she was not teaching colors in Latin.

    This whole country needs a lesson in the origins and meaning of words and these kids need a serious education so that they can recognize racial slurs when they meet it. The Europeans used the Latin word ‘niger’ for black when they first encountered Black Africans, it was the slave traders and owners who degenerated the word into a racial slur so as to make themselves feel and seem superior to the those of darker complexion just as they have done to others who were not European aristocrats. Does surf -meaning people of the dirt/earth/land and peasant ring any bells?

    Blacks (Negroes) are not the only race that have been subjected to racial slurs – ask the native peoples on all the continents and the many countries that came under European influence – and kids would know this if we would teach them honest history instead of the watered down version that continues to elevate European aristocrats and gloss over racial, ethnic, and class discriminations.

    Where do people think the ideas of race and class came from? It is time we put such racial epitaph into perspective and their proper context so that we can rise above them because each moment we devote to their negative influence is like whipping ourselves with the rod of slavery and dragging the shackles our ancestors shedded through dint of hard work, perseverance, and education.

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