BREAKING NEWS: most Black people don’t want to volunteer to be lynched

A teacher in Georgia thought it would be a good idea to have her students do a film on racism and dress up like Ku Klux Klan members. So the students wore the costumes to school and walked around like that, which was an even better idea. Naturally if you’re going to do a film about racism and the Klan you need to include a re-enactment of a lynching, so of course the students asked another student, a black student, to help them out with that one. Can you believe he actually got upset about that? Because as a black person, I would be glad to participate in a mock lynching in order to help out some white AP students with their school project.

The teacher is on leave with pay over this. She states she’s just trying to teach her students about racism because “[…] we have to discuss racism in our society because if we don’t, we are condoning it. And I don’t cover it up. And you can’t discuss racism and not include the Klan and that’s what we were doing.” A discussion of racism necessarily involves dressing in homemade Klan costumes (not that there’s a company that manufactures official Klan costumes, but you know) and parading around the school. There’s really no other way to discuss the Klan other than doing that! You couldn’t like, show your students documentaries about the Klan, or documentaries on racism period, or just have an actual discussion that DIDN’T involve dress-up.

So now the Rev. Markel Hutchins, Lumpkin County Georgia’s local Al Sharpton, is involved (I’m sorry, but why is it when these things happen a preacher is dispatched from the black community to handle the situation) and demanding diversity training and meetings with the superintendent and sheriff’s office to make sure there’s no retaliation against black students who were upset by the incident. You brought that on yourself, Dahlonega, GA, so no complaining about the race card because you straight played the race DECK. And what has the teacher learned from this? “I would tell the students that if you are going to film the Klan, do it on your own time and out of school.” Yes! Because what we need are more extracurricular lynching re-enactments!

This goes in the Hall of Fame of Bad Ideas on Dealing With Racism.

34 Responses to BREAKING NEWS: most Black people don’t want to volunteer to be lynched

  1. Jerome May 26, 2010 at 2:13 am #

    Too…much…stupid…I really have no words.

    > Naturally if you’re going to do a film about racism and the Klan you need to include a
    > re-enactment of a lynching, so of course the students asked another student, a black student,
    > to help them out with that one. Can you believe he actually got upset about that?

    This made me LOL so hard I spit Diet Coke on the keyboard! Great post, as usual.

    • Tasha Fierce May 26, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

      I hope you didn't short out your keyboard!

  2. Bronxgirl1 May 26, 2010 at 5:45 am #

    I can usually sum up my feelings in a few sentences or paragraphs. Today I just have one word. DISGUSTING!

  3. aliciamaud74 May 26, 2010 at 7:35 am #



    I was in a conversation a few months ago fairly passionately arguing for simulations in an educational context, handled with sensitivity, and with full awareness that they can be complicated but evocative, and that vast amounts of preparation need be done to make them effective. However, an example as flagrantly boneheaded and shockingly irresponsible as this one had never occurred to me. I mean, I know this isn't about me, but as an educator invested in how the public views and (dis)respects our profession, I literally felt nauseated reading this.

    • Tasha Fierce May 26, 2010 at 11:14 pm #

      It's just that I can think of like 20 other ideas for a class film about racism that don't involve the Klan or mock lynchings. Seriously, the Klan is not the whole of racism. That's such a limited viewpoint.

      • aliciamaud74 May 27, 2010 at 4:53 am #

        Yeah, unfortunately I think there's a lot of ham-handedness in our culture and in education and news organizations in particular. I swear, every special assembly we have had for kids this year at our school has had the general message "If you do this, you'll DIE." That applies, apparently, to drinking and driving, having sex, using the internet, and ruining your credit. It's exaggerated and simplistic and fear-mongering, and doesn't help kids at all to practicing sorting out the complications of the world. Plus, all of them know living adults who have DUIs, have bad credit, and use the internet, and have both sex and low credit scores, so it's pretty easy for the kids to then brush off some of the actual issues as BS. I think framing it as racism=The Klan makes it a small leap for kids of privilege to think racism doesn't really exist; after all, they've never seen anyone in a Klan robe! (Or…er, they have, but it was in the high school cafeteria, so no biggie.)

        • aliciamaud74 May 27, 2010 at 4:56 am #

          (Meanwhile, of course, scaring the living daylights out of kids who face actual–not made for tv—racism every day.)

        • aliaras May 27, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

          Yeah. I know I made a couple of stupid decisions in High School that I might not have had I not learned to tune out whatever teachers were saying, because shit they were that excited about -everything-. Someone needs to sit them down and make them reread "The Boy Who Cried Wolf".

          Also a good point on the Klan thing. I'm white, and until recently, would have sworn that racism was over, as after all nobody was lynching people, and those who were using racial slurs or blatantly discriminating against people based on race were widely viewed as old dinosaurs who were wrong.

          And then I got more educated. Really, teaching privileged folk about that and how to see it earlier would be great, instead of just focusing on the really violent outbursts of whatever-it-is.

  4. chava May 26, 2010 at 8:08 am #

    I went there for a Scholar's Bowl tournament once many a year ago, glad to see nothing has changed (sigh).

    In the video, the teacher is actually. wearing. pearls. She grabs them at one point, I think. She is an honest to God PEARL CLUTCHER. Wtf.

    • Tasha Fierce May 26, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

      Ha! She clutches them? I didn't even notice. Good eye.

  5. Atchka! May 26, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    Let me be the first to recommend Crucifixion Reenactment Day.

    We'll have all our students dress up in classic Roman attire and harass, attack, spit on, and insult any overtly Christian students at school. Then we'll ask one Christian to volunteer to be nailed to the cross for our film.

    And as we've all learned, so long as the nails go through the palm and not the wrist, the kid should be okay.


    • Tasha Fierce May 26, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

      Yes and we can ask our Jewish students to participate by throwing rocks and such!

      • AcceptanceWoman May 27, 2010 at 7:51 am #

        Maybe even more likely, ask the sole Jewish student at the school if he will play the role of Judas.

      • Atchka! May 27, 2010 at 7:56 am #

        Yeah, but then Jesus gets his come-uppance once we get to Crusades Reenactment Day and he can pay it forward to Mohammad.


  6. living400lbs May 26, 2010 at 9:30 am #

    Naturally if you’re going to do a film about racism and the Klan you need to include a re-enactment of a lynching, so of course the students asked another student, a black student, to help them out with that one. Can you believe he actually got upset about that?

    Hell, I'd be upset about that assignment. WTF is wrong with this teacher?

    • Tasha Fierce May 26, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

      She is just really concerned about the Klan! Don't you know that racism begins and ends with the Klan??

      • AcceptanceWoman May 27, 2010 at 7:54 am #

        Yes, because racism happened a long time ago. It's over now, so we can put on sheets like it's a toga party and go into the cafeteria.
        Not like these students' grandparents were actual Klan members, or anything. What is it with people in the south being proud of their heritage?

        • AcceptanceWoman May 27, 2010 at 7:55 am #

          I mean, the most hideous aspects of their heritage. Can't they be proud of Jimmy Carter instead?

  7. aliciamaud74 May 26, 2010 at 9:43 am #

    I can't figure out if the assignment is worse, or the elaboration on what she has learned from all this. Everyone's going to make mistakes in their classroom (though Thank GAWD they're not going to be of this f-tastic caliber)but when you're called on it and are still completely clueless? Horrifying.

  8. badhedgehog May 26, 2010 at 10:02 am #

    That is just bloody vile.
    I'm reminded of something that Snarky's Machine wrote recently about her kind of activism being focused on behaviour and consequences rather than on winning hearts and minds. I think it's very relevant here — this teacher needs to feel some real negative no-job flavoured consequences and at least learn that she can't do this and get off scot-free. It sounds like she just doesn't get that she did anything wrong, so any hearts and minds talk would not get through.

    • Tasha Fierce May 26, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

      Yeah she wrote that on Shapely Prose I think. A tack definitely appropriate for this situation.

  9. AcceptanceWoman May 26, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    I am in awe of how you wrote about this. It's such a perfect takedown.
    I can think of many offensive dress-up activities, but I don't think any one of them would have been rejected by this teacher.

    • Tasha Fierce May 26, 2010 at 11:18 pm #

      Well she doesn't gloss over things!

  10. raymondj May 26, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    I'm with BHH on this too, I feel like the timidity around handling things like that with direct consequences is due in part to avoiding discomfort, but guess what, it's uncomfortable to fck up and that's what she did! Butch up, sally!! She should be fired, not just for her own, um, education, but to establish the clear boundary for the rest of the teachers in that school and school district, which evidently wasn't already there.

    • Tasha Fierce May 26, 2010 at 11:18 pm #

      "Leave with pay" is just too much like, uh, paid vacation.

  11. Twistie May 26, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    Reading this, I can't decide whether to cry, scream, or hit something.

    All I can tell you for sure is that if I had been in that woman's class, no power on earth would have gotten my lily-white butt into a Klan suit. There's no excuse possible.

    • Tasha Fierce May 26, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

      YES. The fact that the students got into the costumes without protest scares me too. I wonder if any objected?

  12. aliciamaud74 May 26, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    @raymondj: and perhaps also as a statement from the teachers she works with who already KNOW that was a fckd up thing to do that the boundary exists from their perspective, too. (we can hope, anyway.)

  13. chriso May 26, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

    What. The. Fuck. It is mind boggling to me that this teacher thought she was doing a good thing. I mean, she really actually thought this whole thing through and was like "Yes, Cathy, this is one of the best ideas you've ever had! GO FOR IT!!" It's especially appalling because the KKK is just a terrifying image. I remember watching some cable TV special at my Dad's house when I was 8 or 9 and it had to do with racism throughout history. There was a segment on the Klan and the image of them totally scared the shit out of me. To this day images of people in Klan robes chills me to the bone – and I'm fucking white! I can't even imagine what it was like for the PoC kids at that school seeing those idiots coming into the lunchroom dressed like that.

    • Tasha Fierce May 26, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

      I KNOW RIGHT. I would have shit my pants. Those kids didn't even know there was a film being made! All they knew was there were some Klan members in their cafeteria!

  14. aliciamaud74 May 26, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

    Too true…and for each of those kids to know that at least one adult in charge of their safety was condoning that shit. Sick.

  15. Dawn. May 27, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    Fucking ridiculous. Her "explanation" after the fact is even worse. I can't believe any teacher would think this is acceptable. She should have been given unpaid leave, or better yet, fired immediately.

    This reminds me of the Texas Board of Education's recent privilege clusterfuck they call their new curriculum. We really need to come down hard on the way American kids and teenagers are taught (or not taught) and socialized. It's really frightening what passes for truth–or isn't mentioned at all–in our classrooms.

  16. Kelly May 29, 2010 at 11:19 am #

    Interesting a teacher so passionate about education, social justice, and race didn't take about fifty minutes of inter-netz time to check into how many people of color and whites writing on anti-racist work would predict this would go over.

    I agree with what others have said; I can understand a mistake, but it sounds like she didn't learn anything from it and is going to play victim.

    Great post Ms. Fierce.

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