School segregation and some satire

• October 27, 2013

Image result for school segregation kay and peeleAs was well documented in today’s front page D & C, article “Schools in black and white,” many city and suburban are deeply segregated.   As I travel around city schools, I experience segregated education first hand. On a daily basis, I may walk into a class where I am the only white person in room of minority, mostly black, students.

Naturally, my first task is to take attendance. When I first started, I would invariably mangle the pronunciation of my minority and foreign-born students, often to titters or outright laughter. Particularly embarrassing is calling a name, and then asking “Is he here?,” only to learn he is a she (or vice versa). Luckily, I have greatly improved.

Recently, I saw a satirical video about an African-American urban teacher substituting in an all white (apparently) suburban school. When calling roll, the teacher pronounces Anglo names as if they were African-American. Convinced the students are being deliberately challenging, he erupts in hyperbolic anger overdone for comic effect.

Later, in passing, I mentioned the video to some high school students. Somewhat to my surprise, another teacher had already shown it to them. So we watched it again with the same amused response.

Often satire can be telling.

Take a look at Kay and Peel’s “Substitute Teacher”

Clearly the video plays on a kind of role reversal. The black teacher in the all white class. The mispronouncing of African-American and Anglo names may seem minor or trivial. Behind the humor, however, I think the video allows us to see in a crystallized form the effects of segregation.

Both the black teacher and the white students seem to live in separate worlds where lack of knowledge of others, misconceptions, and stereotypes abound. The video does offer a tiny ray of hope when we meet the only African-American student in the class. But he is just one. Alas, segregated education allows allows the world of the video to be all too real.

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About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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