Friday, May 28, 2010

In Reply: Racism, Bad Judgement, or a Tiny Tempest in a Teacup?

In reply to: Ku Klux Kontroversy - Youth for Western Civilization, a story about a Georgia teacher who led four white AP History students wearing Klan garb through the school lunchroom, where students--including black and mixed race students--were eating.

Pretty offensive, right?

But here are more facts:
The students were dressed that way to shoot a class video project about the history of racism, almost certainly depicting KKK bigotry as the evil it was and is.
The teacher didn't know the lunchroom was being used at the time.
The teacher realizes she made some mistakes in judgement, and takes full responsibility for her actions.

Less offensive? I think so, too.

The author at the Youth for Western Civ blog sees the bruhaha erupting from this incident as "a small tempest in a teacup about 'racism'," the result of "the PC Left" getting bent outta shape over an "AP History teacher [who] obviously thought it would be a good exercise in white guilt over racism and slavery."

I think he's mistaken. My comment (revised and extended from the original, for clarity) appears below.

I don't know, but it seems to me that even the teacher herself isn't on your side, here... She admits she made a few errors in judgement in this situation, and I think she's correct.

She shouldn't be fired over the incident--as you say, she didn't intend to offend anyone, and she takes responsibility for screwing up--but it isn't "a tempest in a teacup" or "an example of political correctness run amuck," either. (I'll feel differently if she is actually fired over the incident, but up to this point, I believe the school's actions are justified... and again, I don't hear the teacher saying any different.)

Seeing kids dressed up as racists (like the klan) or genocidal murderers (say, in Nazi uniforms) is offensive, and rightly so--particularly to those cultural groups who are descendants of their intended victims, but also to anyone who thinks these groups were a stain on humanity (and continue to be--there are bigots wearing Klan/Nazi symbols and preaching some of their tenets to this very day, who do intend offense and harm).

Context counts for alot, but there's also something to be said for thinking things through and planning ahead. Simply realizing that kids in Klan garb could easily be misunderstood and
1) running the idea by the principal,
2) having the kids take the sheets off when not actively shooting video (it's not like it's hours of costuming and make-up. It's a white sheet and a party hat. Toss the sheet over the head, strap on the hat, and your "dressed."), or
3) just not allowing kids to dress up as bigots/murderers in the first place, because whatever one's good intent, it's just too easily misunderstood and misinterpreted,
would've prevented the whole incident.

I don't agree with your take on this... While it wasn't the teacher's intent to be offensive, she didn't do enough to prevent some folks from being rightly offended by what they saw. They lacked the context to judge the incident for what it actually was because the teacher failed to provide it to them ahead of time. (For the person at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article who likened this to a civil war reenactment: One big difference is, when you attend one of those, you know it's a reenactment and choose to be there. The folks in the lunch room did neither. And for another, I don't think many see either the union or confederate army uniform as offensive...)

It's not a firing offense, but it's not nothin' either... As you (sarcastically) say though, at least it furthers the ongoing discussion of race and tolerance in America, and (contrary to that sarcasm), I think that's a good thing...
Posted Friday, 28 May 2010 05:39 (Western Youth blog time)

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