Black Teacher Allegedly Told Food for ‘Whites Only’ by Colleagues, Called ‘Aunt Jemima’

Illustration for article titled Black Teacher Allegedly Told Food for ‘Whites Only’ by Colleagues, Called ‘Aunt Jemima’
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A black English teacher is suing her school district over racist acts by colleagues and students and over—surprise—royally fucking up when she reported it.


Forty-six-year-old Andrea Bryan is suing Long Island’s Commack School District for bungling their response to discrimination against her after she dealt with multiple instances of racist remarks and alleged instances of being shut out and treated differently from other staff, reports NBC. They write:

In one instance, when Bryan asked the lead teacher about a bag of peanuts on a table in the English office, he told her the food was “for whites only,” the lawsuit states.

In connection with the English Department’s teaching of the play “The Crucible,” which features the character of a black slave who travels to the U.S. from Barbados, the same lead teacher allegedly asked Bryan in front of colleagues, “Andrea, can you translate slave talk for me?”

Bryan also alleges that a student who called her “Aunt Jemima” was not removed from her class upon request and that she was given a bottle of hand sanitizer as a Secret Santa gift. She says other teachers received gifts that were reasonable for the $50 spending limit, per NBC.

So what did school administrators do about this? Well, they demoted the person who made the “slave talk” comment, because it’s definitely appropriate to have someone who says something like that not only in the presence of the person he said it to, but impressionable teenagers as well. Especially when there’s already a hostile work environment—but I’m sure someone as mature as the guy who said that shit in front of his co-workers would be good enough not to stir anymore shit.

Bryan also alleged that she was passed over for privileges given to white teachers she outranked and was generally outcast by her peers—unsurprising, since she was the only black teacher working there since 2002, according to the suit. A district spokesperson denied the claim about Bryan being the only black teacher for that long, per Newsday, but couldn’t provide any actual facts about how many black people had been employed, which really helps their case there.

The spokesperson also said, “The district takes any allegation of discrimination seriously and, as a matter of policy and practice, acts swiftly in response to any claim. Due to privacy requirements, the district cannot discuss the details of Ms. Bryan’s claims. We can say that all of them have been investigated and, to the extent appropriate, promptly addressed,” Newsday writes.


I’m not sure I trust people who allowed any of this to go on to decide what’s appropriate.

Either way, a lot of us have worked in hostile/mostly-white environments, and it can be hell even when our co-workers aren’t outwardly racist, let alone acting like Bryan’s allegedly were. I hope she gets some peace over this—and maybe some much-deserved retribution.

Natalie Degraffinried is a senior editor for Kotaku.


Tool of the Matriarchy

I’m a retired teacher, but have only worked in Australia. From my reading of The Root and other American sources, American teachers seem to be hideously underpaid. The average salary for a primary school teacher in my Australian state is A$66,037 (about US$47 015). I’m reading about a lot of American teachers making half that. Add in poor teaching conditions (overcrowded classes, crumbling buildings, lack of resources etc), and it sounds like a very unattractive job.

If a job has shitty pay and conditions, you aren’t going to attract good people. You’ll get some people who believe so strongly in the need for quality teaching that they battle on for a while, but they’ll burn out and move on. You’re left with the detritus who can’t function in decent society, and whose only employment options are the crappy jobs that nobody else wants. In turn, those jobs are so unpopular that they’re forced to take any warm bodies that show up to the interview. So the job has shit employees that aren’t even worth the shit money they’re getting, but without paying more they’ll only get shit employees.

Sounds like American public school teaching is dealing with a lot of shit employees. That’s awful, and I sincerely hope the Blue Wave in so many states can start fixing that mess. Impose high standards and pay and resource teachers properly, is the only way forward.