So, let me begin by saying I’m pissed off right now!!! Okay, onward…
Here’s a ‘story’ (circa 2003) about a student I once had four years ago, and during a time at which I worked only on one campus. Let’s call this student “B”. B was a big dude; well over 6’5″ and well over 300 pounds. On various occasions in class, B would talk about how he used his size to intimidate people to get what he wanted (hmmm, was this his way of foreshadowing?).
Throughout the first few assignments, B used a LOT of gendered slang and nonverbal gestures to simulate things not meant for the classroom. It made me and some students in class uncomfortable, so I said something to him. Then he wrote a few papers that used more sexist and some homophobic language. This was unacceptable! I failed him on the assignments and informed him he could redo the work appropriately and resubmit for a grade.
What was his response, you’re wondering? Well, he accused me of being racist and not giving him a grade because of his race. WTF?!?! This really upset me – and my husband when I told him about it. To make a long story short, the Dean of Student Affairs became involved, informed me of my rights, which I then relayed to the student, who promptly changed his tune and passed my class successfully.
Okay, skip to the present semester…. where I now teach on four campuses.
At one campus in particular, I’ve had a few issues with a fellow instructor coming into the classroom during my class and interrupting my session so she could prep her room and students to begin her class — over 30 minutes early and while I still had 30 minutes left of my class. We had various disagreements on the topic, which were viewed by my students, and none of which were ever based on personal or race issues.
So, today, another interruption happened in my class. During a student speech, a police officer walks in and just stands there. I see everyone looking at me like what’s going on, but I don’t want to interrupt my student during his speech. Alas, after realizing the officer was not going anywhere, I asked my student to ‘hold that thought’ while I spoke with the officer. The officer and I went outside and he showed me a death threat with racial overtones that a colleague received – the same colleague with whom I’ve had the above-mentioned disagreements. And, for some reason, authorities were lead to believe that I or one of my students had something to do with it.
I take matters like this VERY SERIOUSLY, especially in light of all the situations nationwide, from Columbine to Virginia Tech. What the hell is happening with our schools and students???? It is not something to be taken lightly, as I stated in my class today after the officer instructed my class that the ‘evidence’ was going to be taken to the crime lab and felony charges would be brought against the offender if they didn’t go to the Dean and apologize for this. WTF???
Why would I be asked if I had any involvement and why would my students be asked the same? One ‘theory’ is that because my students witnessed the disagreements, one of them decided to give this threat to the other instructor. If I had that much power over my students, wouldn’t they all finish their homework on time, come to class regularly, and strive to get all A’s????
Needless to say, I was a wreck! I broke down crying in class and walked out to try to compose myself. Before that was possible, some of my students came out to find me and make sure I was okay (I couldn’t ask for a better class of students!!!). My emotions were all over the place, yet I knew I needed to continue the class and bring back some sort of normalcy. The class spoke briefly about the incident and then we continued with presentations. I’m constantly amazed by the strength of my students!
When I left class, I went to speak to the Administration to try to see exactly what was going to happen. After not really receiving any solid answers other than my classroom was going to be changed for the remainder of the semester to ‘protect me’ and to make the other instructor feel ‘safe’, I left campus and went home to unload my day on my husband.
After relaying the part of the story with the officer, and asking me if the officer was black, the first two things he said to me were: 1) “Welcome to my world and the world of every other Black man”, and 2) “Why the hell didn’t you tell the officer your husband was black?!”
I didn’t mention this because I didn’t think it had relevance – I wanted my personal character to be the relevant issue – not my husband’s race. I know, I know, it has it’s relevancy, but I didn’t think I had to say that — I’m not racist. I know this. And I certainly would never send anyone a death threat, let alone one with racial overtones. But, people who don’t know me personally and perhaps only see me as a white woman are going to think what they want about me – just like what African Americans go through on a sometimes daily basis. Wow, that’s some shitty stuff to have to deal with!
I love my students and I think I get a good sense of who they are from my interactions with them in the classroom. I would be absolutely heart-broken and crushed if one of them did this. In my heart and gut, I know none of them did. I hope I’m proven right!