I've never considered myself racist.  The last week in school, however, made me start hating one particular race of students: white kids.

Of course, I am white myself, which makes this bit of racism all the more troubling.  Ought I to start making snide comments about myself to myself behind my own back?  Should I grab my girl and pull her tightly to me when I see myself walk by a window and I catch a glimpse of myself in it?  Would it be wrong for me to burn a cross on my own yard?  Should I call myself a credit to my own race, or am I an Uncle Tom for caring about how whites present themselves in school?

Ridiculously premised, grandstanding jokes notwithstanding, there is a serious undercurrent to all of this that I picked up on at the end of last week.  Most of my classes have, at most 2 white kids.  The Wobegon International School of Culinary Arts is quite a diverse campus, so it's not at all odd to have a melting pot of different races represented in each classroom.  About this, I have no qualms.  In fact, I really enjoy the diversity of the school, and I think that being in an environment like that is going to make me grow as a person.


One of my classes has a higher-than-average number of white kids in it, and they are the brattiest, most unrepentant snots this world has ever seen.  These curmudgeonly little koalas (yes, I realize I changed consonants, but it's the alliteration that matters...) are unproductive, verbally abusive, ridiculously entitled young men and women.  I have never had a group of students who felt that they were better than the instructor.  It's not that I think I'm better than them, but I do believe that we should respect one another, and that one should respect his/her teacher.

The little koalas talk back, refuse to do work, and generally decide not to devote any energy to class.  The saddest part about all of it, though, is that these are supposed to be the best students in the school.  My little koalas are tops of their class, are in all of the advanced classes, yet they can't manage to spend forty-five minutes staying on task, treating one another with respect, and taking an interest in their own education.

When I got into this teaching thing, I was told a lot of things re: the different races of students within my fair inner-city district.  The first week has completely blown these expectations out of the water.

Please realize that my semi-offensive statements earlier about my racism were not intended solely for humor's sake.  One of the things that Caucasians tend to ignore, either wilfully or not, is that we are privileged.  The fact that I'm saying this about this group of students didn't make my fellow white readers out there believe that all white kids are like that.  Instead, they figured that I just happen to have an annoying group of kids in one room.

What if I had told the same story and said that the students were black?  Would those of you out there who dismissed the little koalas as an anomalous group of spoiled kids have instead been unsurprised?  Would it merely have confirmed your prejudices, however latent?

The nice thing about being white, as many people have previously pointed out, is that your actions as a white person do not reflect upon your race as a whole.  Since we are the dominant culture, we get to set the expectations for everyone.  If a member of the dominant culture falls short, it is overlooked.  Woe to those in the minority, however, who make a mistake, since their mistake only confirms the internalized prejudices of those who notice.


aladante said...

I believe you stated your belief exactly how your students should hear it from you. Respect is the key. If anyone can make them understand, it will be you.