If the white Chicago Public Schools teacher really wanted to have a healthy discussion about racism, he should not have used the n-word in his majority-black sixth-grade class, writes Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell. 

In an exclusive interview with the Sun-Times, Brown said “he used the n-word in front of his majority African-American class at Murray Language Academy on Oct. 4 last year after one of his students passed a note to a girl with rap lyrics including the n-word.”

Brown used the incident to talk to his 11-year-old students about the negative impact of the racial slur.


Brown’s lawsuit alleges he was using the n-word when the school’s principal, Gregory Mason, walked into the classroom.

Brown was later cited for using “verbally abusive language to or in front of students” and “cruel, immoral, negligent or criminal conduct or communication.”

A CPS hearing officer ruled Brown had “engaged in inappropriate discussions with sixth-grade students during instructional time.”


Officials with the Chicago Board of Education issued a statement Friday saying Brown’s lawsuit “is without merit.”

Obviously, most sixth-graders have heard the ugly slur.

Still, Brown overstepped his boundaries.

The fact that Brown grew up in an integrated neighborhood, was among the few whites who attended Kenwood High School; that he taught black children in a school that served the Robert Taylor Homes; that his father was the former dean of Rockefeller Chapel at University of Chicago and a supporter of the civil rights movement, doesn’t exempt him from the unwritten rule when it comes to the n-word.

Read Mary Mitchell's entire column at the Chicago Sun-Times.