“cause you a black male”

We use silent lunch at our school as a consequence for poor behavior.  Philosophically, I am still waivering on the merits of this type of system.  Professionally, I have learned to rely on it as a motivator for students who need to sit up, shut up, and work. 

Today I assigned silent lunch to two of my young men in 3rd block.  It was convenient – since that’s our lunch period, I just dropped them off on my way.  The teacher who oversees silent lunch is untouchable; think Madea, but better.  As I was leaving, one of the boys said to me, “But Mrs. Russ, why are we in here?”  To which the silent lunch warden responded:

“Cause you a black male, that’s why.  Now sit down and shut your mouth.”

I smiled and shook my head as I left, because I knew what they were doing without having to look back- they were sitting down and shutting their mouths.  I also knew that I could never, ever get away with saying anything like that. 

I have been reminded countless times over the past four years that I am a young, white female.  I cannot do anything about this.  But it is useful to know that, even in 2011, there is a collective history that I do not share with my students.  The silent lunch warden does, and she speaks to them differently than I do. 

There were many days when, before I knew myself as an educator, this angered me.  Now I am grateful that I can rely on the strengths of my colleagues, and proud that I have my own history and attitude to bring to the classroom that my students appreciate and respect.