I know I did a post on (potential) racism, but I think this brings up some interesting issues surrounding race and the n-word. I have my response and I've called in a favor from my good friend, Gage Norris, as a second opinion to complete the forum. I'd like to hear what you think too. Leave your thoughts in the comment section under the post. FYI, if you leave a comment on Facebook or somewhere else I'll put it in the comment section on the post, so save me the time and effort!
Rick - As a teacher, and a white teacher in a minority environment, that he should have been more aware of how his use of the n-word would play out. The word is so emotionally charged that even though I think the principal's reaction was incorrect, it has to be expected. This reminds me of a debate that took place in one of my U of C classes. A white student used the n-word while quoting and discussing a specific assigned reading passage and I remember there was such an uproar by several black students in the class the original point (which was valid) was lost in the backlash. Obviously there is a double standard insofar as who is saying the word, but I think there is also space for other races to use the term "n-word" during teachable moments or in academic in discussion. Context is key. You can always refer to the word without using it and still make valid points and take advantage of teachable moments.
Gage - As I write this, I’m trying to figure out if this is a case of a decent guy trying to do the right thing but going about it the wrong way – or if it’s case of a guy with a ton of white guilt that’s turned into white anger. Brown has a point when he says we can’t address issues of race if we don’t talk about them. But I don’t think it’s necessary to use the n-word explicitly. At this point I think it’s safe to assume people will know what you mean if you abbreviate out of a sense of respect for a word that carries centuries of racism – by white people against black people, and for a period of time, by white people against anyone who wasn’t white. If our goal is to phase this word out as much as possible (not ignore it, just limit its usage), continuing to use it explicitly can’t be moving us in the right direction. Ultimately, I feel like Brown deserves this suspension. Based on the discrepancies between his account and that of his principal, it’s clear at least one of them is lying about what really went down in that classroom. And my gut tells me it wasn’t a bunch of black students and a principal ganging up on a white teacher – rather, a white guy who let himself get out of line in a professional setting.