Racial remarks at school

Arie - posted on 12/04/2014 ( 2 moms have responded )




Hello... This is my first time blogging. I found this forum searching for resources and guidance with a situation that I am faced with. I am of Cuban, Jewish and African American decent. My husband is African American. Today during the ride home from picking my 9 yr old son up from school, he mentioned that after gym class he asked his teacher if she liked basketball. She responded by saying " do you think a white woman can play basketball?" The school that my son attends is predominately white and this is not the first time that racial related comments were made. Although this is the first time that it was made by a teacher. Am I overreacting? Over thinking things? the comment seemed to make my son very uncomfortable. I would like to address the issue with the teacher but, am fearful that she will begin to treat him unfairly. Has anyone experienced a similar situation?


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Gena - posted on 12/05/2014




Why should it be a bad comment? She might have ment it as a compliment that dark skinned people are better at it. I dont think such a sentence is worth going to complain. Not everything a white person says about a dark skinned person is "racist". I know alot of dark skinned people that say far more racist things about whites,but thats a different story. My dark skinned friend told me "you whites have a small pointy nose because you are arrogant and look up high"..i laughed about it and said yes yes,and yours is flat from looking down to catch chickens. We both had a good laugh!If every race could laugh at eatchother and not take everyword so damn serious,the world would be a better place. I am not a racist,i am white..i may say that just like dark skinned people may say they are dark skinned.

Ledia - posted on 12/05/2014




Here is my take as a white woman. Because it made him uncomfortable, it is worth addressing, first with him, then if HE wants you to speak with the teacher, with her as well.

There are two points to my explanation, and I don't know which to put first, because this is a very sensitive topic, especially right now. So here goes.

I have friends of many different ethnic backgrounds. My very best friend is black--she doesn't call herself African American, just black or "dark skinned", as do many of my friends. We DO notice that we have very different cultures, and we enjoy comparing and contrasting them all the time--taken out of contexts, many of her comments and mine might sound rather racist, but they are not racist. We know that our differences are not BECAUSE of the differences in our skin color, but are specific and common to people who share our skin color. That is a really difficult thing to express, but for example, my friend tells me all the time that white people cannot make Cajun food. The reason my Cajun dishes pale in comparison to her's has nothing to do with the color of our skin, but rather the fact that Cajun cooking has been a big part of her culture for generations, and that is a common cultural element for many black people, but very few white people have that cultural background. Some do, and some black people are probably worse Cajun cooks than I am--there are always exceptions because we are all really the same, but we also are different, and we want to preserve those cultural differences because they make us unique, they are interesting, and the all play important parts in the development of our society.

Now, onto the teacher's comment. Honestly, I don't think she was intentionally making a racist comment, rather she was commenting on the stereotypical body type differences between most basketball players and most white women. Basketball is about tossing a ball into a ring way up high on a pole--tall people are better at it. More people of African decent are tall and lean with long arms and legs than any other ethnic population--this is because a greater surface area and smaller body mass make it easier for the body to regulate temperature in hot climates like in Africa. Conversely, you have the Inuit people, who are very short and stout with short, thick arms and legs--this is because the smaller surface area with the heavier body mass help them retain heat (the more cells in the body, the more heat the body creates. Fat creates more heat than lean muscle. Heat is lost through surface area--the higher the surface area, the faster the heat loss). And everyone else is in between.

Thus, while most basketball players do have both tall, lean bodies AND dark skin, they are good because of their body types, not their skin color. The dark skin color is simply physical trait that is common in people with that body type, while light skin color is a physical trait that is not common in people with that body type.

That still doesn't make the teacher's comment correct. Her idea would have been more accurately expressed by saying, "Do you think a short (possibly flabby) woman can play basketball?"
And of course the answer is, "Sure, anyone can play....You just might not be very good at it because you aren't very tall."
If your son had replied by asking what being white had to do with playing basket ball, the teacher probably would have smiled with a little embarrassment and explained that she was generalizing white people and just meant that most white women are short and suck at basketball--which is fairly true. She probably didn't even take into account that she was speaking to a dark skinned person--I certainly don't think about my best friend's skin color whenever I speak to her. I mean, I can see her, I know what she looks like, I'm certainly not denying that I know she is black, but it just isn't something that I think about. It never crosses my mind unless the specific topic comes up. Unfortunately, the topic has come up a lot lately with everything going on in the media, and I can honestly say that I am very glad I have her in my life because while she and I agree on our thoughts about the recent events, her perspective is very different from mine, and this time, the difference in perspective is just because of her skin color, not the cultural diversity between us that we love, and I think that sucks, and it isn't fair.

I hope all that makes some sort of sense.
I would discuss it with your son first to see what exactly about the comment bothered him, and what she most likely meant. Then, if he wants you to talk to her, do that, but don't speak to her about it without his permission, or without knowing exactly why he was bothered because it could have been her tone, more so than her actual words that bothered him. In that case, going to her and discussing the racial implications of the statement, would do nothing to improve the dynamic of their relationship.

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