Tuesday, May 22, 2007

3 of my students are getting superintendents suspensions that start tomorrow. Malik was upset about his, worried about going to suspension "court" and having to defend his actions in front of a judge who would decide how long his suspension would be.
Tears ran down his face and he pounded his fists into his desk and through clenched teeth he asked, "What if the judge is white?"
"What?" I asked?
"White people lie and they never believe me. What if the judge is white?"
Yahkemp, who has returned from his superintendent's suspension believing I am the best teacher in the world, was giving him advice like stay calm and tell the truth, but Malik kept saying, "The judge is going to be white, white people hate me, they never believe me."
"I'm white, I don't hate you, I do believe you when you tell the truth, and what you're saying is very racist, Malik," I said.
He looked at me, confused.
"You're not white," he said.
"I'm not?" I asked? "Then what am I?"
"I don't know. You're Ms. Gronquist. You listen to me. You know when I'm lying."
"Now I do, but that's because I know you like you're my own kids. In September I didn't. We've gotten to know each other. You know when I'm having a bad day just by looking at me, right?"
"Yeah," he said. "And when you want to laugh but you're trying not to," he said.
"Exactly," I said. "But the relationship that we have doesn't change the fact that I'm white. If anything it proves the fact that not all white people are out to get you."
"Yeah but see you're not white," chimes Yahkemp. "You're white on the outside but black on the inside."
"What?" I ask.
"Like, you get sunburned and you can see your veins but you're not like white people," he said.
He was completely serious.
It was an incredible segway to so many conversations that happened 2 minutes before it was time to go home and now they will be gone for at least 7 days.
It will come back up. It needs to. They need to learn to live in other parts of the world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In order to show them other parts of the world, perhaps look at the picture book Whoever You Are' by Mem Fox. A great simple book about tolerance and looking at hearts, not skin, as a way to connect.