A Canadian school district is opening an investigation after a white substitute teacher was caught on Instagram making insensitive comments about a black kindergartener’s hair. The question “Who rocked it better? LOLOLOL,” was part of an Instagram post in which the teacher put a picture of the back of the child’s head next to a shot of Marlon Wayan’s character from the movie Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood making a ridiculous face and pointing a gun at the camera.
According to the local school board, the whole situation is being handled as an act of “anti-black racism.” What’s interesting is that the teacher’s comments would have gone totally unnoticed were it not for one Twitter user who captured a screenshot and tweeted it at the district. Based on a report from the Toronto City News, the teacher in question has “been assigned to home, which means she cannot take any shifts or communicate with students or staff.” Still, some folks just don’t see a problem.
“You’d be hard-pressed to look at that particular image and say that it’s not a post that would be considered racism,” said Carla Pereira, a district spokesperson. “You look at it, you look at the use of Black stereotypes and you look at how the child is being compared to another individual in not a very nice way. I think you’d be very hard-pressed to say that it’s not anti-Black racism — even though that’s what we’re hearing from some members of the community who are saying it’s ‘just a joke, it’s really not racist.’”
Hi @PeelSchools, please be informed that a grade school teacher with your district is 1) openly mocking her students’ appearance and posting photos of them on social media 2) tagging the location of the school on her Instagram, putting them in danger. pic.twitter.com/Y3JNwz8EIf
— Fool of a Took! (@giaper) June 2, 2018
This is troubling for many reasons even beyond the blatant racism. In fact, the most egregious transgression might actually be that the teacher also shared the location of the school and thus potentially put the child in danger. Moreover, Loc Dog, Wayan’s character in the film, can only be described as something of a wantonly violent and aggressively misogynistic dimwit. Don’t Be a Menace is a parody of serious narrative-dramas like Boyz In The Hood and Menace II Society and is thus a cheeky but manageable critique of black culture and the way it’s presented in film. While the movie is meant to be funny, and it is funny, making that comparison at the expense of a black child is just screwed up. Also, again, it’s racist.
When people, in general, make jokes like this at the expense of black children, they are actively participating in the pathologization of black behavior and appearance. That has a tangible influence on the degree to which black kids learn to see themselves as ‘other.’ Beyond that, it props up the idea that having locks or a wild afro is something to be scoffed at or made fun of. That’s a horrendous thing to teach a child, especially considering that when black hair is left alone it will lock up. On top of that, the stigma surrounding wild braids and dreadlocks is still that they’re dirty and undesirable. That is far from an appropriate way to approach any black trait associated with any black child. But, that being said, it is particularly inappropriate for a person who wields the social power and emotional leverage of being both white and an educator.
Pereira is unsure how long the investigation will last or what the ramifications will be. Per the school board’s social media guidelines for teachers, the substitute in question will be subject to either verbal reprimand, forced sensitivity training, or outright termination. The teacher has yet to be identified, but her Instagram account has been deleted.