I Am A Man

Jose 1 Comment

On Saturday, NYC Educator posted an interesting speech, and here it goes:

At first, when watching this video, I grimaced. How does a teacher get to the point where they have to use such terse language for a student who’s less than 1/2 his age? For that matter, it almost seems excessive when we hear the n-word used like a pronoun in our schools and we question the effectiveness of such a speech because the kids around him are laughing a bit.

Then again, I’ve personally had to give “that” speech every so often, once with full curses! (I acknowledge the risk of probably getting fired. It happens.) At some points, it was because the n-word was used, but other times, it came as a result of the constant of some student (usually a girl) getting a chauvinist comment thrown at them or after a physical brawl. As a male of my upbringing, it almost becomes incumbent upon me to set my students straight when it comes to certain ideas they have. Too many of my students come from an environment, whether that environment’s home or the streets they peruse, that doesn’t have a successful male willing to tell them when they’re wrong. So they act up with no remorse.

And I probably could have lost my job, but after that, I got the respect I deserved on a deeper level. On nights when I laid up in my crib on Saturday nights sobbing after watching Malcolm X, or feeling the soul rip from Martin Luther King’s chest when he spoke on his view from the mountaintop, I thought about easily seduced and devalued my boys and girls feel in this world. When watching this video, I empathized with Mr. Charlie Martin in his message, but I wondered if he followed that up with a little reflection later on for those boys who feel that they only have their sexual organs to contribute to the general society.

That’s one thing I never left out with any student if I saw any means: the love and care from which you speak. And anytime I wanted to succeed with getting that student to become a better person, I had that follow-through. After all, it’s the same technique many of these children use the n-word and devalue themselves. If they keep getting told they’re nothing but the n-word and treat themselves as such, then it’s easy for them to use it.

And that understanding is where the reprogramming begins … and it takes a certain type of speech and a certain type of person to do it. It doesn’t have to be racial, because I’ve heard this type of diatribe from many types of people. In my case, I know I’m coming in with a similar message to Mr. Martin:

I am a man. Let me show you how …

Mr. V, whose probably got a few students reading who can attest to this …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonI Am A Man