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What is it like to teach black students?

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  1. What is it Like to Teach Black Students?
  2.  
  3. by Christopher Jackson
  4.  
  5. Until recently I taught at a predominantly
  6. black high school in a southeastern
  7. state.
  8.  
  9. The mainstream press gives a hint of
  10. what conditions are like in black schools,
  11. but only a hint. Expressions journalists
  12. use like “chaotic” or “poor learning
  13. environment” or “lack of discipline” do
  14. not capture what really happens. There
  15. is nothing like the day-to-day experience
  16. of teaching black children and that is
  17. what I will try to convey.
  18.  
  19. One of the most immediately striking
  20. things about my students was that they
  21. were loud. They had little conception of
  22. ordinary decorum. It was not unusual
  23. for five students to be screaming at
  24. me at once.
  25.  
  26. It did no good to try to quiet them and
  27. white women were particularly inept at
  28. trying. I sat in on one woman’s class as
  29. she begged the children to pipe down.
  30. They just yelled louder so their voices
  31. would carry over hers.
  32.  
  33. They seemed
  34. to have no conception of waiting for
  35. an appropriate time to say something.
  36. They would get ideas in their heads and
  37. simply had to shout them out. I might be
  38. leading a discussion on government and
  39. suddenly be interrupted: “We gotta get
  40. more Democrats! Clinton, she good!”
  41. The student may seem content with that
  42. outburst but two minutes later, he would
  43. suddenly start yelling again: “Clinton
  44. good!”
  45.  
  46. Anyone who is around young blacks
  47. will probably get a constant diet of rap music.
  48. Blacks often make up their own jingles,
  49. and it was not uncommon for 15
  50. boys to swagger into a classroom,
  51. bouncing their shoulders and jiving back.
  52.  
  53. They were yelling back and forth, rapping 15 different sets of
  54. words in the same harsh, rasping dialect.
  55. The words were almost invariably
  56. a childish form of boasting: “Who got
  57. dem shine rim, who got dem shine shoe,
  58. who got dem shine grill (gold and silver
  59. dental caps)?” The amateur rapper usually
  60. ends with a claim—in the crudest
  61. terms imaginable—that all womankind
  62. is sexually devoted to him. For whatever
  63. reason, my students would often groan
  64. instead of saying a particular word, as in,
  65. “She suck dat aaahhhh (think of a long
  66. grinding groan), she f**k dat aaaahhhh,
  67. she lick dat aaaahhh.”
  68.  
  69. So many black girls dance in the hall, in the classroom,
  70. on the chairs, next to the chairs, under
  71. the chairs, everywhere. Once I took a
  72. call on my cell phone and had to step
  73. outside of class. I was away about two
  74. minutes but when I got back, the
  75. girls had lined up at the front of the
  76. classroom and were convulsing to the
  77. delight of the boys.
  78.  
  79. Many black people, especially
  80. women, are enormously fat. Some are
  81. so fat I had to arrange special seating to
  82. accommodate their bulk. I am not saying
  83. there are no fat white students—there
  84. are—but it is a matter of numbers and
  85. attitudes. Many black girls simply do not
  86. care that they are fat. There are plenty
  87. of white anorexics, but I have never met
  88. or heard of a black anorexic.
  89.  
  90. “Black women be big Mr. Jackson,”
  91. my students would explain.
  92.  
  93. “Is it okay in the black community to
  94. be a little overweight?” I ask.
  95. Two obese girls in front of
  96. my desk begin to dance, “You know
  97. dem boys lak juicy fruit, Mr. Jackson.”
  98. “Juicy” is a colorful black expression
  99. for the buttocks.
  100.  
  101. Blacks, on average, are the most directly critical
  102. people I have ever met: “Dat shirt stupid.
  103. Yo’ kid a bastard. Yo’ lips big.” Unlike
  104. whites, who tread gingerly around the
  105. subject of race, they can be brutally to
  106. the point. Once I needed to send a student
  107. to the office to deliver a message. I
  108. asked for volunteers, and suddenly you
  109. would think my classroom was a bastion
  110. of civic engagement. Thirty dark hands
  111. shot into the air. My students loved to
  112. leave the classroom and slack off, even
  113. if just for a few minutes, away from the
  114. eye of white authority. I picked a light-skinned
  115. boy to deliver the message. One
  116. very black student was indignant: “You
  117. pick da half-breed.” And immediately
  118. other blacks take up the cry, and half
  119. a dozen mouths are screaming, “He
  120. half-breed.”
  121.  
  122. For decades, the country has been
  123. lamenting the poor academic performance
  124. of blacks and there is much to
  125. lament. There is no question, however,
  126. that many blacks come to school with a
  127. serious handicap that is not their fault.
  128. At home they have learned a dialect that
  129. is almost a different language. Blacks
  130. not only mispronounce words; their
  131. grammar is often wrong. When a black
  132. wants to ask, “Where is the bathroom?”
  133. he may actually say “Whar da badroom
  134. be?” Grammatically, this is the equivalent
  135. of “Where the bathroom is?” And
  136. this is the way they speak in high school.
  137. Students write the way they speak, so
  138. this is the language that shows up in
  139. written assignments.
  140.  
  141. It is true that some whites face a
  142. similar handicap. They speak with
  143. what I would call a “country” accent
  144. that is hard to reproduce but results in
  145. sentences such as “I’m gonna gemme
  146. a Coke.” Some of these country whites
  147. had to learn correct pronunciation and
  148. usage. The difference is that most whites
  149. overcome this handicap and learn to
  150. speak correctly; many blacks do not.
  151.  
  152. Most of the blacks I taught simply
  153. had no interest in academic subjects. I
  154. taught history, and students would often
  155. say they didn’t want to do an assignment
  156. or they didn’t like history because it was
  157. all about white people. Of course, this
  158. was “diversity” history, in which every
  159. cowboy’s black cook got a special page
  160. on how he contributed to winning the
  161. West, but black children still found it
  162. inadequate. So I would throw up my
  163. hands and assign them a project on a
  164. real, historical black person. My favorite
  165. was Marcus Garvey. They had never
  166. heard of him, and I would tell them to
  167. research him, but they never did. They
  168. didn’t care and they didn’t want to do
  169. any work.
  170.  
  171. Anyone who teaches blacks soon
  172. learns that they have a completely different
  173. view of government from whites.
  174. Once I decided to fill 25 minutes by
  175. having students write about one thing
  176. the government should do to improve
  177. America. I gave this question to three
  178. classes totaling about 100 students,
  179. approximately 80 of whom were black.
  180. My white students came back with
  181. generally “conservative” ideas. “We
  182. need to cut off people who don’t work,”
  183. was the most common suggestion.
  184. Nearly every black gave a variation on
  185. the theme of “We need more government
  186. services.”
  187.  
  188. My students had only the vaguest
  189. notion of who pays for government
  190. services. For them, it was like a magical
  191. piggy bank that never goes empty. One
  192. black girl was exhorting the class on
  193. the need for more social services and I
  194. kept trying to explain that people, real
  195. live people, are taxed for the money to
  196. pay for those services. “Yeah, it come
  197. from whites,” she finally said. “They
  198. stingy anyway.”
  199.  
  200. “Many black people make over
  201. $50,000 dollars a year and you would
  202. also be taking away from your own
  203. people,” I said.
  204.  
  205. She had an answer to that: “Dey
  206. half breed.” The class agreed. I let the
  207. subject drop.
  208.  
  209. Many black girls are perfectly happy
  210. to be welfare queens. On career day, one
  211. girl explained to the class that she was
  212. going to have lots of children and get fat
  213. checks from the government. No one in
  214. the class seemed to have any objection
  215. to this career choice.
  216.  
  217. Surprising attitudes can come out in
  218. class discussion. We were talking about
  219. the crimes committed in the aftermath of
  220. Hurricane Katrina, and I brought up the
  221. rape of a young girl in the bathroom of
  222. the Superdome. A majority of my students
  223. believed this was a horrible crime
  224. but a few took it lightly. One black boy
  225. spoke up without raising his hand: “Dat
  226. no big deal. They thought they is gonna
  227. die so they figured they have some fun.
  228. Dey jus’ wanna have a fun time; you
  229. know what I’m sayin’?” A few black
  230. heads nodded in agreement.
  231.  
  232. My department head once asked all
  233. the teachers to get a response from all
  234. students to the following question: “Do
  235. you think it is okay to break the law if it
  236. will benefit you greatly?” By then, I had
  237. been teaching for a while and was not
  238. surprised by answers that left a young,
  239. liberal, white woman colleague aghast.
  240. “Yeah” was the favorite answer. As one
  241. student explained, “Get dat green.”
  242.  
  243. There is a level of conformity among
  244. blacks that whites would find hard to
  245. believe. They like one kind
  246. of music: rap. They will
  247. vote for one political party:
  248. Democrat. They dance
  249. one way, speak one way,
  250. are loud the same way,
  251. and fail their exams in the
  252. same way. Of course, there
  253. are exceptions but they
  254. are rare.
  255.  
  256. Whites are different.
  257. Some like country music,
  258. others heavy metal, some
  259. prefer pop, and still others,
  260. God forbid, enjoy rap music. They have
  261. different associations, groups, almost
  262. ideologies. There are jocks, nerds,
  263. preppies, and hunters. Blacks are all—
  264. well—black, and they are quick to let
  265. other blacks know when they deviate
  266. from the norm.
  267.  
  268. One might object that there are important
  269. group differences among blacks that a white man simply cannot detect. I
  270. have done my best to find them, but so
  271. far as I can tell, they dress the same, talk
  272. the same, think the same. Certainly, they
  273. form rival groups, but the groups are not
  274. different in any discernible way. There
  275. simply are no groups of blacks that are
  276. as distinctly different from each other
  277. as white “nerds,” “hunters,” or “Goths,”
  278. for example.
  279.  
  280. How the world looks to blacks
  281. One point on which all blacks agree
  282. is that everything is “racis’.” This is
  283. one message of liberalism they have
  284. absorbed completely. Did you do your
  285. homework? “Na, homework racis’.”
  286. Why did you get an F on the test? “Test
  287. racis’.”
  288.  
  289. I was trying to teach a unit on British
  290. philosophers and the first thing the students
  291. noticed about Bentham, Hobbes,
  292. and Locke was “Dey all white! Where da
  293. black philosophers’?” I tried to explain
  294. there were no blacks in eighteenth century
  295. Britain. You can probably guess
  296. what they said to that: “Dat racis’!”
  297. One student accused me of deliberately
  298. failing him on a test because I
  299. didn’t like black people.
  300.  
  301. “Do you think I really hate black
  302. people?”
  303. “Yeah.”
  304. “Have I done anything to make you
  305. feel this way? How do you know?”
  306. “You just do.”
  307. “Why do you say that?”
  308.  
  309. He just smirked, looked out the window,
  310. and sucked air through his teeth.
  311. Perhaps this was a regional thing, but
  312. the blacks often sucked air through their
  313. teeth as a wordless expression of disdain
  314. or hostility.
  315.  
  316. My students were sometimes unable
  317. to see the world except through the lens
  318. of their own blackness. I had a class
  319. that was host to a German exchange
  320. student. One day he put on a Power Point
  321. presentation with famous German landmarks
  322. as well as his school and family.
  323.  
  324. From time to time during the presentation,
  325. blacks would scream, “Where da
  326. black folk?!” The exasperated German
  327. tried several times to explain that there
  328. were no black people where he lived in
  329. Germany. The students did not believe
  330. him. I told them Germany is in Europe,
  331. where white people are from, and Africa
  332. is where black people are from. They
  333. insisted that the German student was
  334. racist and deliberately refused to associate
  335. with blacks.
  336.  
  337. Blacks are keenly interested in
  338. their own racial characteristics. I have
  339. learned, for example, that some blacks
  340. have “good hair.” Good hair is black
  341. parlance for black-white hybrid hair.
  342. Apparently, it is less kinky, easier to
  343. style, and considered more attractive.
  344. Blacks are also proud of light skin.
  345. Imagine two black students shouting
  346. insults across the room. One is dark
  347. but slim; the other light and obese. The
  348. dark one begins the exchange: “You
  349. fat, Ridario!” Ridario smiles, doesn’t deign to look
  350. at his detractor, shakes his head like a
  351. wobbling top, and says, “You wish you
  352. light skinned.”
  353.  
  354. They could go on like this, repeating
  355. the same insults over and over.
  356.  
  357. My black students had nothing but
  358. contempt for Hispanic immigrants. They
  359. would vent their feelings so crudely
  360. that our department strongly advised us
  361. never to talk about immigration in class
  362. in case the principal or some outsider
  363. might overhear.
  364.  
  365. Whites were “racis’,” of course, but
  366. they thought of us at least as Americans.
  367. Not the Mexicans. Blacks have a certain,
  368. not necessarily hostile understanding of
  369. white people. They know how whites
  370. act, and it is clear they believe whites
  371. are smart and are good at organizing
  372. things. At the same time, they probably
  373. suspect whites are just putting on an
  374. act when they talk about equality, as if
  375. it is all a sham that makes it easier for
  376. whites to control blacks. Blacks want a
  377. bigger piece of the American pie. I’m
  378. convinced that if it were up to them
  379. they would give whites a considerably
  380. smaller piece than whites get now, but
  381. they would give us something. They
  382. wouldn’t give Mexicans anything.
  383.  
  384. What about black boys and white
  385. girls? No one is supposed to
  386. notice this or talk about it but
  387. it is glaringly obvious: Black
  388. boys are obsessed with white
  389. girls. I’ve witnessed the following
  390. drama countless times. A black
  391. boy saunters up to a white
  392. girl. The cocky black dances
  393. around her, not really in a menacing
  394. way. It’s more a shuffle
  395. than a threat. As he bobs and
  396. shuffles he asks, “When you
  397. gonna go wit’ me?”
  398.  
  399. There are two kinds of reply.
  400. The more confident white
  401. girl gets annoyed, looks away
  402. from the black and shouts, “I don’t wanna
  403. go out with you!” The more demure
  404. girl will look at her feet and mumble
  405. a polite excuse but ultimately say no.
  406.  
  407. There is only one response from the
  408. black boy: “You racis’.” Many girls—all
  409. too many—actually feel guilty because
  410. they do not want to date blacks. Most
  411. white girls at my school stayed away
  412. from blacks, but a few, particularly the
  413. ones who were addicted to drugs, fell
  414. in with them.
  415.  
  416. There is something else that is striking
  417. about blacks. They seem to have
  418. no sense of romance, of falling in love.
  419. What brings men and women together is
  420. sex, pure and simple, and there is a crude
  421. openness about this. There are many degenerate
  422. whites, of course, but some of
  423. my white students were capable of real
  424. devotion and tenderness, emotions that
  425. seemed absent from blacks—especially
  426. the boys.
  427.  
  428. Black schools are violent and the
  429. few whites who are too poor to escape
  430. are caught in the storm. The violence is
  431. astonishing, not so much that it happens,
  432. but the atmosphere in which it happens.
  433. Blacks can be smiling, seemingly perfectly
  434. content with what they are doing,
  435. having a good time, and then, suddenly
  436. start fighting. It’s uncanny. Not long
  437. ago, I was walking through the halls
  438. and a group of black boys were walking
  439. in front of me. All of a sudden they
  440. started fighting with another group in
  441. the hallway.
  442.  
  443. Blacks are extraordinarily quick to
  444. take offense. Once I accidentally scuffed
  445. a black boy’s white sneaker with my
  446. shoe. He immediately rubbed his body
  447. up against mine and threatened to attack
  448. me. I stepped outside the class and had
  449. a security guard escort the student to
  450. the office. It was unusual for students
  451. to threaten teachers physically this way,
  452. but among themselves, they were quick
  453. to fight for similar reasons.
  454.  
  455. The real victims are the unfortunate
  456. whites caught in this. They are always
  457. in danger and their educations suffer.
  458. White weaklings are particularly susceptible,
  459. but mostly to petty violence. They
  460. may be slapped or get a couple of kicks
  461. when they are trying to open a bottom
  462. locker. Typically, blacks save the hard,
  463. serious violence for each other.
  464.  
  465. There was a lot of promiscuous sex
  466. among my students and this led to
  467. violence. Black girls were constantly
  468. fighting over black boys. It was not uncommon
  469. to see two girls literally ripping
  470. each other’s hair out with a police officer
  471. in the middle trying to break up the
  472. fight. The black boy they were fighting
  473. over would be standing by with a smile,
  474. enjoying the show he had created. For
  475. reasons I cannot explain, boys seldom
  476. fought over girls.
  477.  
  478. Pregnancy was common among the
  479. blacks, though many black girls were
  480. so fat I could not tell the difference. I
  481. don’t know how many girls got abortions,
  482. but when they had the baby they
  483. usually stayed in school and had their
  484. own parents look after the child. The
  485. school did not offer daycare.
  486.  
  487. Aside from the police officers constantly on campus, security guards are everywhere in
  488. black schools—we had one on every
  489. hall. They also sat in on unruly classes
  490. and escorted students to the office. They
  491. were unarmed but worked closely with
  492. the three city police officers who were
  493. constantly on duty.
  494.  
  495. There was a lot of drug-dealing at
  496. my school. This was a way to
  497. make a fair amount of money but it
  498. also gave boys power over girls who
  499. wanted drugs. An addicted girl—black
  500. or white—became the plaything of anyone
  501. who could get her drugs.
  502.  
  503. One of my students was a notorious
  504. drug dealer. Everyone knew it. He was
  505. 19 years old and in eleventh grade. Once
  506. he got a score of three out of 100 on a
  507. test. He had been locked up four times
  508. since he was 13.
  509.  
  510. One day, I asked him, “Why do you
  511. come to school?”
  512.  
  513. He wouldn’t answer. He just looked
  514. out the window, smiled, and sucked air
  515. through his teeth. His friend Yidarius
  516. ventured an explanation: “He get dat
  517. green and get dem females.”
  518.  
  519. “What is the green?” I asked. “Money
  520. or dope?” “Both,” said Yidarius with a smile.
  521.  
  522. A very fat student interrupted from
  523. across the room: “We get dat lunch,” Mr.
  524. Jackson. “We gotta get dat lunch and
  525. brickfuss.” He means the free breakfast
  526. and lunch poor students get every day.
  527. “*****, we know’d you be lovin’
  528. brickfuss!” shouts another student.
  529.  
  530. Some readers may believe that I
  531. have drawn a cruel caricature of black
  532. students. After all, according to official
  533. figures some 85 percent of them graduate.
  534. It would be instructive to know how
  535. many of those scraped by with barely a
  536. C- record. They go from grade to grade
  537. and they finally get their diplomas
  538. because there is so much pressure on
  539. teachers to push them through. It saves
  540. money to move them along, the school
  541. looks good and the teachers look good.
  542.  
  543. Many of these children should have been
  544. failed but the system would crack under
  545. their weight if they were all held back.
  546.  
  547. How did my experiences make me
  548. feel about blacks? Ultimately, I lost
  549. sympathy for them. In so many ways
  550. they seem to make their own beds.
  551. There they were in an integrationist’s
  552. fantasy—in the same classroom with
  553. white students, eating the same lunch,
  554. using the same bathrooms, listening to
  555. the same teachers—and yet the blacks
  556. fail while the whites pass.
  557.  
  558. One tragic outcome among whites
  559. who have been teaching for too long
  560. is that it can engender something close
  561. to hatred. One teacher I knew gave up
  562. fast food—not for health reasons but
  563. because where he lived most fast-food
  564. workers were black. He had enough of
  565. blacks on the job. This was an extreme
  566. example but years of frustration can
  567. take their toll. Many of my white colleagues
  568. with any experience were well
  569. on their way to that state of mind.
  570.  
  571. There is an unutterable secret among
  572. teachers: Almost all realize that blacks
  573. do not respond to traditional white
  574. instruction. Does that put the lie to environmentalism?
  575. Not at all. It is what
  576. brings about endless, pointless innovation
  577. that is supposed to bring blacks up
  578. to the white level. The solution is more diversity—or put
  579. more generally, the solution is change.
  580. Change is an almost holy word in education,
  581. and you can fail a million times as
  582. long as you keep changing. That is why
  583. liberals keep revamping the curriculum
  584. and the way it is taught. For example,
  585. teachers are told that blacks need hands-on
  586. instruction and more group work.
  587.  
  588. Teachers are told that blacks are more
  589. vocal and do not learn through reading
  590. and lectures. The implication is that they
  591. have certain traits that lend themselves
  592. to a different kind of teaching.
  593.  
  594. Whites have learned a certain way for
  595. centuries but it just doesn’t work with
  596. blacks. Of course, this implies racial
  597. differences but if pressed, most liberal
  598. teachers would say different racial
  599. learning styles come from some indefinable
  600. cultural characteristic unique to
  601. blacks. Therefore, schools must change,
  602. America must change. But into what?
  603. How do you turn quantum physics into
  604. hands-on instruction or group work? No
  605. one knows, but we must keep changing
  606. until we find something that works.
  607.  
  608. Public school has certainly changed
  609. since anyone reading this was a student.
  610. I have a friend who teaches elementary
  611. school and she tells me that every week
  612. the students get a new diversity lesson,
  613. shipped in fresh from some bureaucrat’s
  614. office in Washington or the state
  615. capital. She showed me the materials
  616. for one week: a large poster,
  617. about the size of a forty-two inch
  618. flat-screen television. It shows
  619. an utterly diverse group—I mean
  620. diverse: handicapped, Muslim,
  621. Jewish, effeminate, poor, rich,
  622. brown, slightly brown, yellow,
  623. etc.—sitting at a table, smiling
  624. gaily, accomplishing some undefined
  625. task. The poster comes with
  626. a sheet of questions the teacher is
  627. supposed to ask. One might be: “These
  628. kids sure look different, but they look
  629. happy. Can you tell me which one in
  630. the picture is an American?”
  631.  
  632. Some eight-year-old, mired in ignorance,
  633. will point to a white child like
  634. himself. “That one.”
  635.  
  636. The teacher reads from the answer,
  637. conveniently printed along with the
  638. question. “No, Billy, all these children
  639. are Americans. They are just as American
  640. as you.”
  641.  
  642. This is what happens at predominately white,
  643. middle-class, elementary schools everywhere.
  644. Elementary school teachers love All
  645. of the Colors of the Race, by award-winning
  646. children’s poet Arnold Adoff.
  647.  
  648. These are some of the lines they read
  649. to the children: “Mama is chocolate …
  650. Daddy is vanilla … Me (sic) is better …
  651. It is a new color. It is a new flavor. For
  652. love. Sometimes blackness seems too
  653. black for me, and whiteness is too sickly
  654. pale; and I wish every one were golden.
  655. Remember: long ago before people
  656. moved and migrated, and mixed and
  657. matched … there was one people: one
  658. color, one race. The colors are flowing
  659. from what was before me to what will
  660. be after. All the colors.”
  661.  
  662. Teaching as a career
  663. It may come as a surprise after what
  664. I have written, but my experiences have
  665. given me a deep appreciation for teaching
  666. as a career. It offers a stable, middle-class
  667. life but comes with the capacity
  668. to make real differences in the lives of
  669. children. In our modern, atomized world
  670. children often have very little communication
  671. with adults—especially, or even,
  672. with their parents—so there is potential
  673. for a real transaction between pupil and
  674. teacher, disciple and master.
  675.  
  676. A rewarding relationship can grow
  677. up between an exceptional, interested
  678. student and his teacher. I have stayed in
  679. my classroom with a group of students
  680. discussing ideas and playing chess until
  681. the janitor kicked us out. I was the
  682. old gentleman, imparting my history,
  683. culture, personal loves and triumphs,
  684. defeats and failures to young kinsman.
  685. Sometimes I fancied myself Tyrtaeus,
  686. the Spartan poet, who counseled the
  687. youth to honor and loyalty. I never had
  688. this kind intimacy with a black student,
  689. and I know of no other white teacher
  690. who did.
  691.  
  692. Teaching can be fun. For a certain
  693. kind of person it is exhilarating to map
  694. out battles on chalkboards, and teach
  695. heroism. It is rewarding to challenge
  696. liberal prejudices, to leave my mark on
  697. these children, but what I aimed for with
  698. my white students I could never achieve
  699. with the blacks.
  700.  
  701. There is a kind of child whose look
  702. can melt your heart: some working-class
  703. castaway, in and out of foster homes,
  704. often abused, who is nevertheless almost
  705. an angel. Your heart melts for these children,
  706. this refuse of the modern world.
  707.  
  708. Many white students possess a certain
  709. innocence; their cheeks still blush.
  710. Try as I might, I could not get the
  711. blacks to care one bit about Beethoven
  712. or Sherman’s march to the sea, or
  713. Tyrtaeus, or Oswald Spengler, or even
  714. liberals like John Rawls, or their own
  715. history. They cared about nothing I
  716. tried to teach them. When this goes on
  717. year after year it chokes the soul out
  718. of a teacher, destroys his pathos, and
  719. sends him guiltily searching for The Bell
  720. Curve on the Internet.
  721.  
  722. Blacks break down the intimacy that
  723. can be achieved in the classroom, and
  724. leave you convinced that that intimacy
  725. is really a form of kinship. Without
  726. intending to, they destroy what is most
  727. beautiful—whether it be your belief in
  728. human equality, your daughter’s innocence,
  729. or even the state of the hallway.
  730.  
  731. Just last year I read on the
  732. bathroom stall the words “F**k
  733. Whitey.” Not two feet away, on the
  734. same stall, was a small swastika.
  735.  
  736. The National Council for the Social
  737. Studies, the leading authority on social
  738. science education in the United States,
  739. urges teachers to inculcate such values
  740. as equality of opportunity, individual
  741. property rights, and a democratic form
  742. of government. Even if teachers could
  743. inculcate this milquetoast ideology into
  744. whites, liberalism is doomed because so
  745. many non-whites are not receptive to
  746. education of any kind beyond the merest
  747. basics.
  748.  
  749. It is impossible to
  750. get them to care about such abstractions
  751. as property rights or democratic citizenship.
  752. They do not see much further than
  753. the fact that you live in a big house and
  754. “we in da pro-jek.” Of course, there are a
  755. few loutish whites who will never think
  756. past their next meal and a few sensitive
  757. blacks for whom anything is possible,
  758. but no society takes on the characteristics
  759. of its exceptions.
  760.  
  761. Once I asked my students, “What do
  762. you think of the Constitution?”
  763. “It white,” one slouching black rang
  764. out. The class began to laugh. And I
  765. caught myself laughing along with them,
  766. laughing while Pompeii’s volcano simmers,
  767. while the barbarians swell around
  768. the Palatine, while the country I love,
  769. and the job I love, and the community I
  770. love become dimmer by the day.
  771.  
  772. I read a book by an expatriate Rhodesian
  773. who visited Zimbabwe not
  774. too many years ago. Traveling with a
  775. companion, she stopped at a store along
  776. the highway. A black man materialized
  777. next to her car window. “Job, boss, (I)
  778. work good, boss,” he pleaded. “You
  779. give job.”
  780.  
  781. “What happened to your old job?”
  782. the expatriate white asked. The man replied in the straightforward
  783. manner of his race: “We drove
  784. out the whites. No more jobs. You give
  785. job.”
  786.  
  787. At some level, my students understand
  788. the same thing. One day I asked
  789. the bored, black faces staring back
  790. at me. “What would happen if all the
  791. white people in America disappeared
  792. tomorrow?”
  793.  
  794. “We screwed,” a young, pitch-black
  795. boy screamed back. The rest of the
  796. blacks laughed.
  797.  
  798. I have had children tell me to my face
  799. as they struggled with an assignment. “I
  800. cain’t do dis,” Mr. Jackson. “I black.”
  801.  
  802. The point is that human beings are not
  803. always rational. It is in the black man’s
  804. interest to have whites in Zimbabwe but
  805. he drives them out and starves. Most
  806. whites do not think black Americans
  807. could ever do anything so irrational.
  808. They see blacks on television smiling,
  809. fighting evil whites, embodying
  810. white values. But the real black is not
  811. on television, and you pull your purse
  812. closer when you see him, and you lock
  813. the car doors when he swaggers by
  814. with his pants hanging down almost to
  815. his knees.
  816.  
  817. I have been in parent-teacher conferences
  818. that broke my heart: the child
  819. pleading with his parents to take him
  820. out of school; the parents convinced
  821. their child’s fears are groundless. If you
  822. love your child, show her you care—
  823. not by giving her fancy vacations or a
  824. car, but making her innocent years safe
  825. and happy. Give her the gift of a not-heavily black
  826. school.
  827.  
  828. Mr. Jackson now teaches at a majority-
  829. white school.
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