I am of a generation where Richard Pryor was the only person who ever used the N-word in a public venue. Today, however, rappers and hip-hop music is inundated with the word, and our youth who listen to it mimic their idols. It is considered to be hip, as in “dude” or “homeboy”, and it now has become an issue in the Dallas schools, as well as many other schools across the nation.
Recently, a middle-aged, white English teacher in Kentucky used the word toward one of his black students and was suspended for 10 days without pay. The teacher defended his use of the word as trying to relate with the student in a hip manner. As you can well imagine, black parents, pastors and civil rights leaders complained loudly and publicly, many wanting the teacher fired. I cannot say I blame them, since that was my same reaction when I first read about the incident.
Lauren Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky high school, stated that all the students use the term toward each other, regardless of their race. A Dallas schools teacher at Carter High School sees the same thing in his school and has campaigned vigorously to have the N-word banned from all Dallas schools.
Hollis Brashear has taken up the campaign and wants to see all ethnic or racial slurs banned from the Dallas schools. The Dallas schools already have a policy that forbids the use of obscene and offensive language, but Brashear wants more specific language written into the policy.
Brashear is a native of the city, who attended the Dallas schools. He also was the longest serving trustee of the Dallas schools board at the time of his resignation this past spring. During his tenure, he was outspoken on everything from leadership concerns of different superintendents to racial problems within the Dallas schools. A graduate of Lincoln High School in the ‘50s, he noted that such language was not proper for students who wanted to make something of their lives, regardless of their race. Brashear pointed out that it is still inappropriate today. It comes down to the basic principles of decency, civility and respect for yourself and others.
You cannot have it both ways. Students who use the N-word as a term of endearment one moment cannot get angry the next when it is used by an Anglo, Brashear pointed out to the Dallas schools board last April. This dangerous double standard is the issue with which the Dallas schools are currently grappling.
According to Brashear, the answer is easy — stop using any offensive language, especially in public venues and especially racial slurs. As a veteran Dallas schools trustee, retired military officer of 21 years in the Army Corps of Engineers, graduate of A & M University, owner of an engineering consulting firm, and a successful black businessman, Brashear knows of what he speaks. Offensive language, especially ethnic slurs, does not belong in the Dallas schools and more specific language in school policy is obviously needed for everyone’s guidance, as well as enforcement of the policy.
Patricia Hawke is a staff writer for Schools K-12, providing free, in-depth reports on all U. S. public and private K-12 schools. Patricia has a nose for research and writes stimulating news and views on school issues. For more information on Dallas schools visit http://www.schoolsk-12.com/Texas/Dallas/index.html