When Your Racist Colleague Spews Hate, Do You Address It Or Do You Remain Silent?

If there is anything corrupt in the world of charter schools you can expect Mercedes Schneider to blog or write a book about it.

Yesterday she wrote about a student walkout at a Sacramento charter founded by Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson.

Before that she took stabs at the Success Academy charter network in New York, made an obligatory Betsy DeVoss diss track, and shot off several broadsides agains educational standards and student assessments.

(If you’re looking for links, I’ve told y’all before I don’t link to trash and she writes trash. Find it for yourself.)

All that said, I’m waiting to see if she has any words about her colleague Valerie Bouvier Scogin who is in the news today for writing a controversial Facebook post in a thread about Colin Kaepernick.

Schneider and Scogin teach at Slidell High School in Slidell, Louisiana.

Scogin’s trouble began when she responded to a former Slidell High student who posted this on on the school’s alum page: “If you’re upset about Nike choosing Kaepernick for the ‘Just Do It’ campaign, ‘Just Ignore It’ like you do police brutality and racial injustice.”

In that moment Scogin could have made a number of choices as an educator, a public servant, and a role model for students. She could have veiled her racism like most good white people in Louisiana do.

Here’s what she chose to say:

They don’t have to live in that country. They could go back. But it was their own people selling them into slavery to begin with and tearing them even worse in those countries of origin.

Want a better neighborhood? Move. You don’t have to choose to live in those zip codes.

Want to not be stereotyped, tell people of that color to quit acting like animals and perpetuating the stereotype. Many are average people; the few ruin it.

Want to be in better neighborhoods, quit voting for handouts and pay taxes. They are what helps the neighborhoods/schools/services provided for the community. There is a reason for taxes.

In that list of nearly legible ideas Scongin sings several white supremacist verses, such as…

  1. Go back to Africa
  2. Black people were responsible for their own enslavement
  3. Black people live in ghettos because, like Kanye’s slavery, ghetto living is a choice
  4. Black people are stereotyped because they act like “animals,” not because white people are racist
  5. Black people vote for welfare and to avoid paying taxes

I can’t imagine how she thought that would land. I can only think there are times where anti-black racism lives beneath sea level in the bodies of Americans who wade in a ocean of strategic denial and insulating privilege, and we only see short bursts of that hidden sentiment when people like Scogin lose themselves in passionate moments.

In this case the results is a good one. The “people of that color,” as she named them, those who she likens to “animals,” they did their thing by making her famous, and that got her a few words from her bosses.

Scogin deleted her Facebook account and issued a perfunctory “if you were offended” non-apology.

To my friends and family, both personal and professional: Recently, I posted a comment that may have been hurtful to some of you. In my reaction out of frustration at another facebook post, I made some remarks that were against my better judgement and sensibilities. I now wish I hadn’t. Any one who has known me for any time should know that the last thing I want to do is to hurt anyone. I apologize for what I said and sincerely wish to avoid this in the future. At this time, I also want to reach out to those closest to me to discuss this matter in private, if you feel it is appropriate. Thank you again for you consideration, kindness and understanding in this matter.

In a time where we are raw and fatigued by the steady flow of reminders that the Negro national anthem is not yet true, and the Dred Scott decision still is, readers were having none of Scogin’s backtracking.

“I personally have experienced racial tension and micro aggressions from Slidell High,” one student said. She went on to talk about interactions with a white teacher who “lied” and got the student expelled.

You don’t have to believe her, but if she were a charter school student saying the same thing Schneider or one of her sisters would blog about it.

Another student said “’I’ve seen so many of the white teachers there post [online] that they don’t see the racism go on in that school and I’m like of course you don’t fucking see it!!”

That would be a blog post too.

A parent added: “That’s one of the many reasons I pulled my child out of there! Could [Scogin] have addressed the serious drug problem at this school that mainly involves kids that look like her?”

That would at least be a Tweet.

My question is one about our naivete as measured by how surprised we are that a public servant – a teacher no less – thinks so poorly of our children and our people even as empirical research has soundly illustrated the prejudice that exists in America’s mostly white, mostly female teaching core?

If we have any surprise about this at all we should straighten up. We are obligated to be realists by acknowledging the struggle for our full humanity is not complete, and these events, however shallow and seemingly inconsequential, are reminders that we need to…well, for lack of a better phrase, stay woke.

And, for whatever misgivings we have about the imperfect purveyors of alternatives to district schools, we can’t allow the Schneiders of the world to absolve themselves, their colleagues, and their employers of culpability in maintaining systems that are at best ineffective in achieving their academic goals and at worst racist in policy and practice.

If they are unwilling to see the beam in their own eyes, how dare they talk about the speck in the eyes of charters. And how dare we fall for the ruse.


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