being a teacher has its good days and bad days. today was a bad day to top off a lousy week. i arrived at school at my usual ten-minutes-late-tire-screeching frenetic pace and saw some students playing around the “spirit” rock. one would think that anything labeled “spirit rock” would induce some sort of group-spirit — a camaraderie, if you will. usually, students note each others’ birthdays or memorials or game-day pump-me-ups. rival schools have even come to paint their message of intimidation before the next big game (which, actually at my school, becomes a foretelling!). usually harmless, prankish all-in-good-fun messages.

not so today. nope, today, as parents and buses dropped students off in front of the school, they were greeted with the school’s true colors: a spirit rock “dressed” as a kkk member and a confederate flag on the flagpole! i heard, but did not see, that several of the black students went to the office and said they were scared and upset. the company response? “we’re so sorry….” oh, bother… the fearless leader, big daddy, unfortunately did not use this horrible occurrence as a teachable moment. instead, he only said that the “trespassers” would be charged with that crime.

my students didn’t really have much to say. they’re sophomores, so they just thought the seniors were stupid. i told jake that i was extremely embarrassed and disgusted with myself that i’m letting him graduate from this stupid school. thankfully, he doesn’t share is fellow seniors’ attitude.

i don’t understand what has to go through a person’s head for him/her to make the decision to trash a public institution (or any place for that matter) with such racial slurs: “hey….there’s only 4 black students that go here..why don’t we spiff the place up a bit, so they know they aren’t welcome”????

why does this matter? well, one, because two of the perpetrators were in my english class, and i really like them (scratch that—LIKED them at one point. obviously, i was a poor judge of character!!!). but besides that, i taught them world lit, but it didn’t make a difference. they still didn’t get that humans are all the same–we struggle with conflict, we try to find love and companionship, we hurt. when i teach holocaust literature, i try to pull in atrocities from other countries, including this one, and i freaking show them the freedom writers movie that shows teens with different backgrounds learning together and getting along. how did they do this? well, they started by finding commonalities among other ethnic groups. and they read lots of stories.

i don’t know how i ended up in this place, nor why i’ve stayed. i don’t like that i have to battle these types of racial tensions (it’s actually getting pretty bad with the hispanic students, too).  but the idea that these kids are “better” than someone else just because of the color of their skin is not just sad and naive, it’s down right sickening; and it’s despicable that big daddy didn’t address this issue publicly (meaning, he didn’t condemn it while he as making morning announcements!!

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