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Pojodan
February 16th, 2007, 01:18 PM
Well, yesterday will go down as one of the most memorable days of my life as I experienced something that really shook me up and made me more irate than I've been since 9/11. The events compelled me to write to several local newspapers and TV stations as I feel this event does not deserve to be brushed aside as nothing.

Here's the letter I wrote with a few key words edited out for content.


Dear Madam or Sir,

An event recently transpired on the campus of **** in **** that I find myself compelled to not simply let go.

Part of the curriculum of **** for most, if not all, Bachelor's Degree courses in a class called World Culture. The main point being driven home by this course is that people of the world have different viewpoint, different customs, and different backgrounds which all must be understood and respected for there to be proper communication between cultures, and yet, underneath it all we are all human and more genetically similar to each other than a pair of seemingly identical penguins, no matter what 'race' one belongs to.

The teacher that was selected for me to teach the course was a fellow who immigrated here from India. I won't name his name for the sake of keeping his privacy safe as I've come to highly respect this man. The topic of World Culture was a hot item for him as he had experienced it in many different ways, having moved away from India to escape the cultural boundaries he was hitting trying to do what he had a passion for: teaching. On moving to England and other European nations he hit more boundaries as he encountered racial discrimination against his so called 'race.' During one recent class session he regaled us with a story about how, in England, he was beaten up, thrown in jail, and told to "Go home, n****" because of his 'race'.

The class I was a part of consisted of 17 white males and one African-American female, again I will not name names for the sake of privacy. Unbeknownst to us, including the teacher, she took great offense to this word being spoken and approached the administration of the school about it.

Yesterday I came to class and found the teacher to be in a very distressed state. He was upset because he had a very disturbing experience with the administration when they brought him in to reprimand him for improper teaching ethic, or something along those lines, he wasn't entirely certain what he had done wrong. During the reprimanding the Dean of the school treated him in such a manner that made it clear to the teacher that he was being racist against him, specifically in referring to the other teachers and himself as 'We Americans' and the teacher as an immigrant, despite the fact that he was a full fledged citizen and had been for 17 years now.

This all was quite confusing to myself and the rest of the class as we where confused as to why he would be in trouble since he, in my mind at least, had never done anything wrong. The word usage incident came to mind, but that seemed silly, and yet, I knew that bringing such a thing up was rife with the potential to cause problems. As such, when he asked if there where any questions I stated, "Yes, but I'm not going to ask them here."

This upset the teacher even more as, at least according to the principals of this country that he had came here for, and his own teacher's ethic, he felt that there should be no such thing as a taboo question in a professional, educational setting. I found myself agreeing with him so I went ahead and asked him to be specific as to what it was that he had gotten in trouble for. He answered by re-telling the tale, again mentioning how he had been told to 'Go home, n****'. At this point the lady in the class stood up and started yelling at him, spewing explanatives and this forbidden word several times herself. The teacher was very calm and well spoken as he explained to her that it was used for academic reasons, how it wasn't spoken in a derogatory manner towards her or her kind, and that he was deeply apologetic that she found offense to it.

Never the less, the lady left the room during break and soon after the teacher was being walked out the building. I'm not completely certain if it's the case, but my understanding of 'being walked out' is that the person is fired. Fired for speaking one word two or three times in a totally non-slanderous manner for the soul purpose of education on the topic of racial equality.

The irony is that the rest of the class, all 17 white males, found this to be outrageous and there very nearly was a riot right there over what was shared to be a feeling of gross injustice over this outcome. The director of the school came in to try to calm things, but it was obvious that he wasn't going to explain himself or the dean's actions or assure us that the right course of action was done.

This sort of thing has no place in either the year 2007 or a professional institution and I feel this man is guilty only of wishing a better world for the students of his class, for that he gets kicked out on the street.

I don't know if sharing this will do any good, but I had to do something as my conscious would not forgive me otherwise.

Please contact the director of the school, ****, at *** for information on this, if the school is willing to share anyway.

~Pojodan (Keeping my real name private as well)

I worry that this is one of those hotbed issues that should be avoided and I don't want this to turn into a civil rights flame war. I just feel the strong need for it to be known that something of this unacceptable caliber took place and that I witnessed it.

Do axe this thread if it's unacceptable, my dear, humble mods.

Larington
February 16th, 2007, 01:28 PM
Surprising. It demonstrates that there are people who still don't understand what context is and who should know better.

One day, there will be computers (Or software) that will have a better grasp of context than this lady did, which concerns me a bit.

lakoda
February 16th, 2007, 01:44 PM
I'm bothered by this sort of knee jerk response but not surprised in the least.

Words and language, being a construct of humanity only have the power we instill in them. Meaning they can't hurt us without our permission.

I can't speak for the women (being neither female or African American) but I am sure she had a valid reason for feeling offended. It is most unfortunate that this wasn't handled in a better manor though and blame in a situation like this does nothing to help resolve it.

I wish you luck in your campaign to get media attention Pojodan, if that is in fact your intention. I also with the best for your professor who obviously had an incredible impact on you.

edit - nice letter btw, I think you did a very good job of controlling and outrage you felt, which is such a good think in a situation like this.

bob the goat
February 16th, 2007, 01:59 PM
Yes. The word is not evil, the use if it can be. He was not using the word inappropriately at all. He was demonstrating WHY there needs to be a class like that.

My sister was in the Choir in High School (she went to National solo and ensemble). My senior year our rural high school (out of a little over 1000 students there were 8 non-white students) the Vice Principal (who was recently hired from an Urban Detroit school) decided to start a “Black History Month unity Choir. They were to travel around to other high schools and perform. My sister went to the auditions. She was informed that she could not be in the “unity” choir because she was white. Instead, the 3 students from our school joined with about 20 from a local city school with a much more “diverse” population. Word spread quickly what happened. They had an assembly for the concert. As soon as the music started the entire audience started talking. The VP was IRATE. She threatened to give everyone detention, but they would not quiet down. Someone in the back of the crowd yelled “Racist!” There was a huge argument about it in the editorials of the local paper for months. The Vice Principal was punished for discrimination, and published an apology letter in the school paper.

My point is, In the definition of racism there is no astrisk leading to a footnote that says *applies to blacks only*. Racisim is a disease that must be eradicated.

Erling E.
February 16th, 2007, 03:08 PM
That's horrible. I agree with you and the teacher -- there should be no such thing as a taboo question in a professional, educational setting. He did not use it in a slanderous way, he was using it as a tool in education to emphasize how damaging that word -can- be. What can I say? Kids can be cruel and they need to be teached. I also find it utterly scandalous that this kid had that sort of power. She was a student and he was a teacher. He should have the last word, and the administration should have listened to him before they lashed out against him like that. In my opinion they acted with ignorance and prejudice. They should know better than this.

What's next? We can't teach the meaning of antisemitism in school because we would have to examplify it with what words are being used by people who are anti-semites? We can't teach people about Nazi Germany because some might be offended by the swastika? I'm not African American so I do not know what sort of effect that word has on people who are, but I see no reason to why a teacher can't teach people about racism and examplify it as long as its done in a professional and educational way.

Pojodan
February 16th, 2007, 03:27 PM
Just for a little clarification for Erling, the woman in question that took offense is in her 40s or 50s, has a son that's in Iraq, and surely grew up during the era of the civil rights movement.

I hardly blame her for being sensitive about it.

Trouble is, there's being sensitive and there's being zealous about the complete and utter removal of a simple word from existence. It's not going to happen and people need to be educated of it's existence, it's significance, and it's impact. THAT is exactly what the teacher was trying to do and rather than provide a positive example she chose to go to the greatest extreme she could to make a personal statement that only served to spark a firestorm.

Truly, the teacher could've said 'n-word' or other means of avoiding it, but at the same time I follow his viewpoint of education being greatly weakened in it's effect when you sugar-coat things.


Thank you for your support, and I do intend to draw as much public attention to this as possible. Will it make a difference in the end? Probably not, but I gotta -try-

Erling E.
February 16th, 2007, 03:48 PM
Ok, I took her for being a young student. Sorry! I don't think we can blame her anyway, really. It is the administration who is to blame. They should have kept their heads cold and made the correct decision.

Bobthepenguin
February 16th, 2007, 03:53 PM
I hate (hate, HATE) that that awful, deragatory, slanderous word is used by school children to describe themselves and thier friends. I hate that musicians use it in their lyrics. I hate that it gets used at all, in any way, as anything but a reference to a less-enlightenend time. I'm sorry for your professor. It's not fair that he lost his job for using a word in an academic fashion, but I think this is a more systemic problem. THink about it. Every little highschooler on the planet is saying "my n**** this, and my n**** that." Either the word is wrong for everybody, or it's wrong for nobody. We need to make this word gone.

Pojodan
February 16th, 2007, 04:08 PM
I agree with Bobthepenguin, but not in his final statement.

I agree that the word needs to be wrong for nobody. If it's gone completely then a key part of history, even if it is a painful one, will be lost. When parts of history are lost they are, invariably, repeated.

It, like so many things, needs to be discussed, to be analyzed, and to be taught so that the sort of mistakes that where made (and are still being made) can be avoided from happening again.

Aku
February 16th, 2007, 04:31 PM
Ah, your first encountered with the power of the offended third party.

Let me tell you, the attitude rules academia, unfortunately. Administrators at most universities are basically at the mercy of departments and interest groups on campus. The admins in this case probably did not want something like this exploding into a campus event. Remember, their attitude is stability uberalis, stability above all, thus the actions from the unclear warning to the escorting out of the teacher.

To make it clear, I don't blame the woman as much as the administration in question. They should have had both parties sit down and discuss it with each other, and if that was not possible, clearly tell the teacher what was wrong so he would not have the incident happen again.

I can tell you from experience that events demonstrating egregous hypocrisy like this tend to crush one's illusions and dreams about academia, unfortunately. I hope your teacher finds something that will match his passion, because Academia might not be the right place for him.

One last thing. If you are still in contact with your teacher, you might get him in touch with the Foundation for Individual Rights (http://thefire.org/), an organization that defends individual rights in education. They are particularly attentive to matters of speech, enrollment, and employment on campus.

Pojodan
February 16th, 2007, 06:20 PM
Well, my faith in humanity is saved.

Came to class tonight as I have a Friday evening class, and who's there to greet me at the door but the Indian teacher.

Don't know if it was just the outrage of the rest of the class, my contacting of the media, or other forces, but he'll be teaching the course till it's end.

Bout time one of these injustices has a swift correction.


Thanks everyone that posted here for your support, t'was greatly appreciated.

Erling E.
February 16th, 2007, 06:21 PM
That's very good news!

Aku
February 16th, 2007, 07:09 PM
Nice to see a happy ending once in a while.

Swarfy
February 17th, 2007, 02:09 AM
Aye, A very happy ending.

I come from a very...interesting... background. My oldest brother is half-african american. I had to grow up being called 'the n*****'s little sister' And It ticks him off to no end that there are other african americans that still play the 'woe is me' thing with something that happened almost three centuries ago. That they feel they are still owed what is theirs.

Do I think that racism will be ever completely gone? Nope, never going to happen unless we kill every human being on earth. It's always going to be around. There's always going to be that little minority that thinks they were 'done wrong' and that they are 'owed' what is theirs. This lady seems to be one of these. I hate the word in every context. I've told people to not say it in front of me. I've lost friends over it as well, becuase of their use of the word. But even *I* know when it's being used as slander, and when it is not.

You teacher was telling a story of what happened to him as it pertained to the class he is supposed to teach. I hope the school learned a lesson... If not. I'd be looking for another job at a different school.

Ciarin
February 17th, 2007, 07:42 AM
it sort of reminds me of the monty python bit in "life of brian" when they were stoning the guy who said "jehovah", and then began to stone the law enforcer who said "jehovah" as a reference.

It seems that america has not only become a litigious society, but also an offended one. Too many people get offended over something that is so insignificant, but getting offending makes them feel important and when they complain and people cater to them they feel so good about themselves. Ugh, utter rubbish. I don't care how old the lady is, someone saying a derogatory word as a reference to another incident shouldn't have offended her at all. What she SHOULD have been offended about was the fact that this guy had such an injustice put upon him. She's insensitive and selfish.

Also, I think it's silly to ban words. ANY word, no matter how ugly it's meaning. Just as bad as burning books.

Larington
February 17th, 2007, 05:07 PM
Good to hear. If people can't teach folks about past injustices how can we learn to prevent future ones. We ignore the past at our own peril.

Pojodan
February 17th, 2007, 11:32 PM
I received an e-mail today from one of the chairman of the school thanking me personally for taking steps to stand up for him and pointing out that while he had, indeed, been fired on the spot his position was reinstated after doing as they should've done and sat down to listen to the whole story and not just 'X was said, I'm offended, you're fired' as was what basicly did happen.

I'm still disappointed that this could happen at all, but the wrongs where put right.

My greatest concern here is the woman's take on this and wether she's willing to let it go. Some friends pointed out, jokingly, to check for weapons next week and while I find that unlikely I still can't help but worry at the back of my mind since she showed absolutely no remorse when he was walked out.

I'll find out next Thursday, I suppose.

Puckster
February 18th, 2007, 07:25 PM
Glad to hear that things seem to be working out right now. You know, I work in a prison and it's a word I hear every single day. The thing of it is, though, is that I rarely hear anyone white say it. And yes, I know there's supposed to be a difference as to if it's said with an "A" or an "R". I don't care who you are or what you say. There's no difference.