White Students Accuse Black Teacher of Racism: Lies, Bias and Bad Media

It’s been two weeks since my post about why white people’s opinions matter, but clearly not everything has been said yet. A few days ago, the Huffington Post wrote an opinion-piece about a black teacher who had been sued for racism by her students, and despite the fact that it received a lot of praise, it does have some issues, as well as a whole lot of counter-productive activism (not to even mention the way popular media picked up the story…) In short: a topic I just cannot possibly resist!

As we all know, popular media can be very one-sided, and the general public seems very adapt at not noticing this while reading a biased article. Story upon story upon story, websites are reporting things without even thinking and people are using these articles to vent their frustration at “society” without too much hesitation. The same happened last week, when an article about three white students suing their black teacher for talking too much about racism spread through Tumblr like a wildfire.

The interesting thing about this particular case, however, is that all these articles are using actual quotations that seem to put the story into a very different context, therefore having the evidence of their own mistakes written down for everyone to see. Particularly, it is the quote “Why do we have to talk about this in every class?” that shows the true nature of the complaint. These three white students aren’t complaining because they are uncomfortable with the debate, but because they are sick of hearing the same story over and over again from the same person. Now, in a class about the history of segregation, that would be unjustified… but what most articles seem to disregard is that this is a class titled Mass Communication.

It reminds me of one of my teachers. She is an extreme feminist who has by now alienated the majority of her students by her constant mentioning of the topic of sexism, which would have been fine if she had been teaching a gender studies subject rather than psychology. She literally cannot go through a single lecture without mentioning the topic of rape, often completely besides the point and for no other reason but to repeat what she had already made clear to us: women have it bad. It is tiring, and although I am very much interested in learning about gender issues, she is definitely not a properly academic, non-biased source to go to for information.

Although of course I don’t know the situation any better than is possible from what little information is available, this teacher seems to have the exact same problem. If she has a lot of knowledge about racism, of course it’s fine to talk about it once in a while, but the moment when people start making remarks about it, she has simply crossed a line. These students wanted to learn about Mass Communication, and if you don’t want to talk about that, then you should be teaching a different class.

Interestingly enough, I seem to be making the same mistake as all these news reporters did. I am judging harshly on the basis of very limited information, which is precisely the kind of thing I have so often spoken up against. The difference, however, is that I am aware of it. I know I could be wrong about the precise events in these classrooms because I wasn’t there myself, and I don’t hesitate to make that particular issue abundantly clear to you by explaining just that fallacy in my train of thought.

What I do know for sure, however, is that there is absolutely no reason for us to judge these students any more than we have reason to judge this teacher. After all, the reason these students are being judged by the public is because of past experiences. People have experienced racism, and therefore they immediately jump to the conclusion that these students are in the wrong, regardless of the lack of information. The same goes for me: I am judging the teacher because of my past experiences with activist university professors teaching the wrong class. And we are both equally wrong.

All this just shows how biased us human beings are, and it really is about time we start realising that. Clearly even a successful writer for the Huffington Post isn’t above that issue, which in this case is quite harmful. After all, what do you think these students will think now? Lies about them are spread in national media, and it is happening for the cause of equality for black people. Not exactly great advertisement, I’d say. And that’s just it. I have said it before and I will say it again: if we don’t think about our actions, if we don’t consider our biases and if we don’t realise the mistakes in our own activism, then we’ll end up working against ourselves. It’s not going to convince anyone but those who have the same biases as ourselves, which are precisely the people who we no longer had to convince.

~

Aah, bias… such a fun topic! We all have it and no matter how open-minded we are, we’ll never get rid of it!

Anyway, don’t forget to rate/share/like this post, and if you have any thoughts of your own, please do leave them in the comments! And if you’re new here? Feel free to like the Facebook page for regular updates, or try having a look at the list of most popular posts!

More on this topic from Dean Richards:

Sexism and the Meaning of the Mysterious Evil Called “Society”

Feminism is Losing its Touch

White People’s Opinion on Racism is Important

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About Dean Richards

A young student with a passion for writing. Aspiring author and human rights activist, but I write about anything. "If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree!" New blog post every Monday!
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2 Responses to White Students Accuse Black Teacher of Racism: Lies, Bias and Bad Media

  1. rollingarmadillo says:

    I took a history class this semester, and it was the most depressing class I’ve taken in a while, and has probably been the last nail in the coffin of my education because I have no more patience for the same kind of biases and senseless bullshit that I have to parrot back in order to be considered “acceptable.”

    My biggest problem with activists who want to get their point across is that there’s no room for teaching. The teacher in the article, the feminist teacher you mentioned, and my history teacher all seem to have a social issue they’re very passionate about, and I 100% agree with them. However, what are we suppose to do about it? This history class I took, all semester we’ve read about the continuing genocide of the Native Americans, the corrupt War on Drugs, and the racial caste system of America. I don’t doubt these things are true. And I don’t try to say they’re not important. But something that’s never been mentioned is what are we suppose to do about it? How are we suppose to talk about issues like racism, rape, genocide, classism, etc, in a way that’s relevant to everyone, that’s inclusive of everyone, without beating them over the head with it and expecting them to “just change themselves” to fit an ideal? Why is the struggle for social justice always a “fight”? You have to have an enemy in order to have a fight. Why make enemies in the name of social justice?

    Simple answer: we’re scared. We feel threatened because of our race, gender, or economic status. And rightly so. The natural response is to get defensive. Especially if we’ve personally experienced any kind of violence. But responding with self righteous anger doesn’t change the minds of the people whose minds you want changed. Nor does being silent. Why can’t we have discussion and debate, even when we don’t agree? Where is the teaching, the simple passing on of information, why can’t we say “Here’s what I’ve experienced. It might differ from your experience, but it’s still very important to me, so please just keep it in mind.” Especially actual teachers! You can argue all day that non-whites and women in American have been systematically disempowered and oppressed, and I would readily agree with you. However, my teacher was a Hispanic woman, and being a teacher means she is in a position of power. When a student made a sexist comment, she had him kicked out of class instead of engaging him in dialogue about why what he said was inappropriate, and his argument invalid. That’s not teaching anyone anything about equality. That only furthers the trend of those being in power doing what they want according to their own beliefs.

    If you want to make social change then you should not pick an issue that relates to you and fight about it. First an foremost, you need to accept opposing views as valid. Even if they are skewed, or even threatening. They believe what they do because of the experiences they’ve had, and you have no right to say that they should have had the better sense to be born into a different situation.

    My invalid argument for the day.

    • I’d say it’s a pretty valid argument, actually. I especially like the part about the teacher becoming the person in power, which is a very good point. Teachers are indeed prone to avoid discussion and to just use their authority to shut someone up, which is wrong, because discussion can be so incredibly useful!

      So yeah, I do agree. Thanks for the input!

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