Sunday, October 3, 2010

The world in black and white

If there ever was a class that was going to make me retire it was last year's ninth grade inclusion class. It included a cast of characters that some sitcom might be able to make amusing but to anyone who had to teach them it was pure torture.

With few exceptions the 9th grade inclusion class became the 10th grade inclusion and the torture continues. (I know, I am the Union rep- my mailbox fills up with complaints nightly)

And this year I co-teach English. The very young and enthusiastic teacher chose a unit on Human Social Injustice to begin the year. Last week we read an article on racial profiling.

There emerged a discussion on New York City police being much harder on people of color than white people. Someone stated that White people are never pulled over for traffic violations.

Wait- as a person of 100% European ancestry I can attest to the untruth of that statement.

Me: “I got a ticket for talking on my cell phone this summer,” (The cop looked like there was no excuse I could use to get out it so I didn't try.) I have a reputation in the school and my house for losing cell phones on regular basis, so I currently own a $15 bare bone model.

Kenya, (our 6 foot six, thumb sucking, basketball star): “What you got hardly qualifies as a cell phone.”

Me: “Makes the whole thing even more pathetic." But someone added that had I been a person of color maybe I would have been treated more roughly, hey the cop wished my a nice day as he handed me the summons.

This week we watched Hotel Rwanda (Yeah, I though that's going to go well- turn the lights out on this class ?)

But they got interested. Day one, Ricardo came into the room late the last teacher having sent him to the Dean's office, and started talking.

Kenya: “Shut the Fuck up, I'm watching the movie”

Ricardo: “No, you shut the Fuck up”

I don't have to type the rest of the conversation- I called the dean.

But the amazing thing was Kenya, who told me last week that he is only interested in basketball texts became totally interested in the movie. One scene, Don Cheadles' character struggles to rip his tie off, disturbed into paralysis after witnessing the mass Hutu murder scene. Giggles emerge as if it were a Mr. Bean flick, Kenya again yells, “Its not funny assholes.” And the thumb goes into his NBA sized mouth.

The movie concluded at the end of the period Friday and the writing and discussion has yet to begin. Norris, raised his hand at the end of the period and wanted to know why Blacks would kill other Blacks, (so much for the pre-movie PowerPoint on the history of Rwanda)

But in the end isn't that the real question. Why did White Germans kill White Jews? Why do White Protestants kill White Catholics? Why did the Khmer Rouge kill other Asians?

Why do world citizens kill each other?
And how do we get this very troubling class to not see the world in just black and white?

I give the new young English teacher credit. He got them thinking.
Maybe it will be a better year.

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