I mean no disrespect to the bright spirit of Jane Austin by titling this thusly. But I do have an evil itch to confront these never-ending gremlins of public behavior. There is a need to regularly chastise the shoulder demons with the red suits, horns, and little red pitchforks. And if we listened more to the shoulder angels with the white robes, halos, and harps we would be talking these things out more carefully and logically with a view to how other people besides our bilious little little lizard-brains are affected.
Part One… Prejudice
When I started teaching in the 1980’s in South Texas, a popular TV show watched by many of my students was The Facts of Life. It was about a girls’ boarding school, specifically, one house mother and her charges. Not a very realistic depiction of the reality of schools in the 1980’s. But even though real house mothers would probably have at least 25 more girls to worry about and drive her insane than this TV version did, it did have a feature that gave me hope as a teacher. This show had a girl of color, something that kind of school, even in the north, would have less of than the 20% representation in this show. And, miraculously, through all the weekly girl-dilemmas for a harried house mouther to deal with, and the occasional social-issue shows, that one black girl was treated as just one of the girls. No more important nor any less important than any of the other girls. That was an ideal to strive for in the world of education.
The character of Tootie (Dorothy “Tootie” Ramsey played by Kim Fields) was a perky and positive character, sweet and charming, and possessing a high degree of emotional intelligence. I remember wishing I had more students like that. But I did have a number of girls exactly like that, though they were Hispanic and Anglo. We had no “black” families in Cotulla, Texas during the 80’s, and only two families and one teacher in the entire 23 years I taught there.
But prejudice is not about what color a kid is. Or what color any human being is. As a teacher, I learned early on that you have to try to love every kid you are given no matter what their personal details are.
I remember teachers saying that, “Black kids are noisier than any other group, and more likely to be aggressive.” Or they also tried to convince me that, “Hispanic kids are too mature for their age and become sexually active sooner in life than they should.” Of course, there were usually examples they were talking about. But those examples weren’t proof that the prejudice is based on reality. They were proof that generalizations based on race, first language, or culture are potentially hurtful. I could point to examples that might indicate that, “White kids are more likely to say racist things than non-white kids are.” That is also an unfounded conclusion that is easily disproven by a majority of examples.
The real problems a teacher has dealing with students don’t come from any prejudicial generalizations. They come from students having to endure things outside of the classroom including poverty, homelessness, physical and emotional abuse at home, malnutrition, or untreated mental or medical conditions. And sometimes the misbehavior is caused by the teacher forgetting or skipping the essential practices necessary to controlling the classroom environment.
Everybody has prejudices. My favorite color is red. I favor it almost always whenever I have a free choice among colors to use. But the problem with prejudices is how we act on them. If I burn down my neighbor’s house because he painted it green rather than red, then I have been morally reprehensible. Not racism, but still an evil act based on my prejudice.
The teenager who got away with hunting protesters and killing two white ones in Wisconsin with a “self-defense” verdict is guilty of acting on a prejudice that people who are protesting a racially motivated police shooting are properly and justifiably shot and killed for protesting in favor of their side of the controversy. He crossed a State line to a community he did not live in to be involved in that opportunity to kill someone he disagreed with using his illegally purchased AR-15 even though the victims were unarmed. Maybe you can’t prove racism. But how about prejudice against protesters who believe they shouldn’t be killed for their beliefs?
In Texas the conservatives are using a hatred and an anti-Critical Race Theory law to exert their racism in Texas schools. The Southlake School District has fired a beloved principal because he had the poor judgement to be married to a white woman and speak his mind in an email about being against the killing of George Floyd. Apparently he was guilty of promoting Critical Race Theory in the school even though Critical Race Theory is a law-school process for examining systemic racism in law enforcement. That, of course, is NOT taught in any Texas grade school, middle school, or high school. He was actually fired for having the opinion (while black) that George Floyd should not have been killed by policemen in Minnesota. They are transparently acting on their racism and proving the need for law schools to continue examining Critical Race Theory. Their excuse is that white kids are being taught to feel guilty of the atrocities their ancestors committed because of racism. So, apparently, how black kids feel about the same things don’t counr.
Through prejudices, teachers will no longer be able to teach tolerance during Black History Month in February. The novel Beloved by Toni Morrison can no longer be taught in high schools. The book Ruby Bridges wrote about her experience with integrating the white grade school in Little Rock, Arkansas can no longer be taught in history classes.
Explain to me why this fundamentally racist prejudice is to be tolerated! But be warned, my personal prejudices are telling me to protest this crap. And you can’t fire me for having taught these things in the past since I am now retired from teaching. You’ll just have to get a teenager with an AR-15 to kill me.