By Kuftu Said
As a Black student who has attended diverse schools my whole life, I’ve seen my fair share of racial microaggressions. Racism in the classroom is particularly aggravating. It’s embarrassing enough that we are taught whitewashed history, are shut out of AP classes, perform lower on standardized tests because of a lack of support systems, and learn from very few teachers of color. I’m tired of hearing my non-Black teachers tell me they can say “negro” for educational purposes.
Whether it’s classmates who tell me not to play the “race, religion, or woman card” in debates, or people who warn me not to perpetuate the “angry Black woman” stereotype, I have let many a bigoted remark go. National statistics show how Black students graduate at lower rates and experience harsher and longer disciplinary actions than their white counterparts, but there are none that show how many Black students experience racism at school. Racist educators have the ability to determine how racist acts are punished, much like how police essentially police themselves.
Some of these facts I have learned from the same teachers who use “negro” or other racial slurs for “educational purposes.” I shouldn’t have to educate my teachers; we can be “educated” just as well by reading around the word ‘negro.’
I had a white teacher who justified her use of the word in a classroom with three Black students by showing us an article that explained how “negro” was used to describe Black people on the census until 2013, so it was an objectively descriptive word. I had a white teacher who announced that he was the only person allowed to say “negro” in the classroom. I had a white administrator who said an even more offensive n-word when disciplining a group of Black boys; he justified it by saying he was repeating what he heard from the group. None of these teachers was punished.
When I talk to my fellow classmates, especially my Black peers, we whisper about the ignorant use of the word. I could never say my feelings out loud before, but in a time of moral revolution, when Twitter has the ability to hold people accountable for hate speech more than schools do, we must normalize calling out what’s ethically backward.
At a time when Black students from Ivy League universities post anonymously on social media about their terrible experiences (check #BlackIvyStories and wince), let’s make sure white teachers stop saying “negro.”