Dear Superintendent Highsmith,
I see that you are taking a “microaggression” break after that disastrous, embarrassing workshop.
The faculty awaited you with excitement at the “Emergency Meeting” on March 7 after school let out. The stakes were high as you read from your script. You entertained no questions. You announced that while you were putting microaggression lessons on pause, you were going to continue to force faculty to take workshops on race and then go teach them. You said that you were not changing course.
Superintendent Highsmith, it is intriguing that you pitched the idea that you were pausing. You were not pausing. You were stopped. Finally. You faced a rebellion, not an insubordinate teacher here, a rogue teacher there. It was that mosquito video that did it. Being exterminated like a mosquito is a sensitive issue. You ran full speed into a wall. Had you lost your mind? Were you having a bad bout of Covid?
Somebody’s beliefs shaped that Nazi-style propaganda that advocated exterminating white people like mosquitoes. Whoever approved that video, and you seemed to suggest that it was crafted under your personal superintendence, wants to see white people murdered for giving a black person offense. That person needs to be fired and carted off by the police for hate crimes.
Superintendent Highsmith, workshops on race at Hamden High School are as common as ordering gin at the bar. The course has not changed since before you arrived at Hamden High School decades ago. As you noted, a former superintendent, Alida Begina, was preoccupied by race. The faculty has languished for decades, patiently, at workshop after workshop, hearing white people excoriated.
The dynamic is actually sort of weird; your presenters lecture an audience who is largely white, about how terrible they are for being white. For years we have been made the enemy, although we are not.
From the National Urban League to “Courageous Conversations ” to the Anti-Defamation League to today’s microaggressions, the faculty has listened respectfully and commented appropriately. An evaluation of these workshops is necessary if we are to continue with them. After decades of these workshops, what progress has been made? Teachers sit at these thousand dollar events, funded by Hamden taxpayers, who pay the enormous fees of consultants, and nothing is accomplished. Test scores continue to decline, student behavior continues to deteriorate, and people from the European family continue to be villified. That mosquito video, that promoted violence against white people, has forced us to rethink what is going on, what we are doing in these race workshops.
The existential nightmare needs to end. Obedience can no longer be expected. Expect other lessons to be shut down if you continue on this road. We are unrepentant.
The microaggression class that you wanted faculty to teach didn’t have much appeal not because, as one of your minions claimed, teachers are uncomfortable talking about race. The disquiet is not about discomfort. It is about being exterminated like mosquitoes. It is about self-respect. We are not your abject, self-loathing minions. You wanted teachers to show a fiendish cartoon, where white people are changed into mosquitoes and then machine-gunned. You and your “consultants” failed to grasp the significance of that video. One can envision sporadic outbreaks of violence simply for giving offense.
No one, except abject and self-loathing minions, wants to be compared to a swarm of mosquitoes. Rifts can be difficult to mend, Superintendent Highsmith. Do not leave bitterness in your wake. An apology would be a start. You will not be able to move forward with a swathe of the faculty enraged.
We can leave to start new districts, new schools; we can leave in order to survive. Many of us have already left. Someone leaves this Wednesday, March 15. Maybe we will see you after school at Wood ‘n Tap.
Superintendent Highsmith, you knew exactly what to do once you finished reading your script. You brought out your minions to read their scripts and say the things that you dared not say. One minion castigated The Albatross for not being publicly named in the last column. She called The Albatross racist. The Albatross knew that one was coming.
Superintendent Highsmith, The Albatross does not write about your minions. Your minions are unimportant. They do not get centerstage. No notice will ever be taken of them. They are no more significant than ashtrays. They can go work as clowns in amusement parks during the summer.
The other minion, reading from her rambling screed, reiterated that white feelings should not take precedence over black and brown feelings, and that white men were foundational to this country.
From where did that come? How did we go from “microaggressions” to the Founding Fathers?
The rambling minion needs to leave the classroom and journey the globe. The world is a hell hole, Superintendent Highsmith. We don’t live in one of those holes because of the Founding Fathers, and that includes the ones who owned slaves. They achieved something that had never before been accomplished, and it is thanks to their genius that we do not live in a country like, say, Uzbekistan, where until very recently, prisoners were boiled alive; literally, boiled alive. (Jaslyk Prison closed in 2019.) We all have it pretty good here when something called “microagressions” is seen as a problem. Someone worried about “microaggressions” has never known hard times. I can hear Thomas Jefferson muttering, “You’ve all had it rather easy, thanks to me.”
Sacre Bleu! The horrors of microaggressions!
That microaggressions can only be directed against “marginalized ” groups is a very inventive definition.
I have thought about microaggressions often this week, and have concluded that anything one can hear, can offend him or her. This relatively new word ‘microaggressions’ reflects on the listener and how the listener chooses to interpret something. In the cacophony of conversation, it would be wise not to analyze everything someone says and try to figure out the intention. Frankly, we should all be alone in public and not talk to anyone. That way no one can give offense.
It does not seem possible that teachers are as deeply offensive as these consultants claim — and rather self-righteously at that Perhaps there is another reason besides “microagressions” that black and brown students are failing. It is fascinating that we had a workshop on “microaggressions,” and yet we have never discussed the unremitting use of the “N-word,” whether ending in “a” or “er,” by black and brown students in classrooms and hallways, and how that word has an impact on their education.
It would not be a day at Hamden High School without the “N-word,” not because anyone white is using it, but because black and brown students use it with aplomb. Using this word nearly destroys a learning environment. The classroom cannot flourish and students cannot participate in intellectual life when this word is used. It is at odds with intellectual life, detrimental to the pursuit of knowledge. Intellectual exchanges are impossible. Ideas cannot be shared.
Yet that word is called out in Hamden High School classrooms and boomed out in hallways every day. Security guards use it with students. Today, I heard it seven times in one class. There is nothing I can do about it. Hamden Public Schools does not have a policy.
Using a word that denigrates them holds back our black and brown students. In fact, cognitive damage is inflicted on students who do not use the word, but have to hear it anyway.
Having a discussion about who should be the arbiter of the “N-word” is irrelevant. That some people have the freedom to use the word and others do not does not matter. The God-given right to free expression of this word does not matter either. The word should not be used in school. A school where students use the “N-word” is not a school.
So prevalent is this word’s usage that it must be addressed. You must address it, Superintendent Highsmith. You must hire some “consultants” and craft a workshop about it. Get some videos on YouTube. Insist that teachers across the district teach it. No pausing here. Damn the torpedoes, Superintendent Highsmith. Full steam ahead.
Once the use of the “N-word” has been addressed, then, and only then, will you be taken seriously and can you begin to discuss microaggressions.