Students at Ben Franklin High School—named Louisiana’s top public high school—ended up having to school a white teacher earlier this week after he apparently thought it was cool to just flagrantly use the n-word because, as he put it, it was a “commoditized word.”
I know, I know. I’m rolling my eyes, too.
Anyway, according to the Times-Picayune, Principal Patrick Widhalm confirmed the authenticity of several videos that have made their way online, in which the teacher tells a black student that it’s OK for the teacher to use the word.
On social media, the teacher has been identified as “Coach Ryan,” but Wldhalm has declined to confirm the instructor’s identity.
One video was circulated by Twitter user @ellienick2, who, aptly, shared it with the caption “Coach Ryan really lost his damn mind.”
In the video, one black student can be heard slamming Coach Ryan for his bullshit.
“That’s racist as shit,” the student says. “Why can you not understand that it’s racist for a white man to say ‘nigger’ to a black man? It’s fucking racist.”
The student then turns around to a white classmate asking if he’d ever say the word “nigger.” The teen also rhetorically asks the rest of the class if they would ever say the word.
“Fuck, no, they wouldn’t say ‘nigger,’” he tells the teacher.
But the teacher isn’t done with his Caucasity, patronizingly asking the teen if he knows what a “commoditized word” is.
“It’s a word that’s used so many times that it doesn’t mean its original meaning,” the teacher responds. “The word has been commoditized so that anyone can use it, and it’s not a negative connotation.”
The student pushes back, saying that it would be negative if the teacher used the word to describe it, but of course the teacher has to reference rap culture and ask why the word is used in songs.
“If you say the word, it means friend, but if I say the word, it means something different?” the teacher says.
The teen explains that the word can change meaning based on the speaker’s race, which the teacher refutes.
“Not if you want the world to move on,” the teacher insists. “If you want this world to be the way it was 50 years ago, then you’re true—you’re right.”
Honestly, at this point I am tired. But the teen has the patience of Job even in his righteous anger and tries to explain the difference between “nigger” and “nigga” and all the other details.
“Nobody says ‘nigger,’” the teacher brushes off.
“Don’t fucking say that,” the teen pushes back. “You can’t say ‘nigger’ or ‘fucking nigger.’ You’re my fucking teacher; don’t say that shit.”
“Please, it’s a word,” the teacher scoffs. “You cannot go through life acting like a word can affect you.”
“Stop saying ‘nigger’ and ‘nigga.’ Point blank fucking period,” the teen said.
“You keep saying,” Mr. Clueless continues.
According to the TImes-Picayune, students went to the principal’s office after class with the intent of staging a sit-in that instead turned into an hourlong assembly.
Widhalm said that students from different backgrounds had “a very good dialogue about the difficulties and the issues that still exist around race, around identity, around the things that aren’t resolved.”
Videos and photos of the assembly circulated on social media, too, with a different student talking about the stigma that black people face in society.
“When you’re black, it changes the whole way people perceive you and people look at you,” the student said, adding that it was the same for women and LGBT people. “Realize that it’s not just a word when you say stuff like that. Realize all the charges and all the connotations it has in it ... and just make responsible choices. If you’re a teacher and you don’t want to get fired, maybe you don’t want to say this.”
As the Times-Picayune notes, it is the second time in the current academic year that a teacher at the school has used a racial slur. After the first incident, students asked for a race-relations forum, which was followed by a second forum.
Read more at the Times-Picayune.