A Prejudice I Didn’t Expect

There are so many reasons to pray when you work in a high school.

The juniors have been reading biographies of slaves, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs in particular.  Usually, the kids really like the discussion that goes with these books, although they don’t always read the whole book.  They are generally appalled at what man can do to man.  Even if they don’t agree, they understand why you should not use disparaging language when describing another ethnic group, and usually, even if they do reveal some personal prejudice. they get that one man owning another like property is wrong.

The project today was a power point, which is sort of funny because, as it turns out, the teacher doesn’t know how to do them and has always relied on her computer geeks (oops–no disparaging language) experts to help students who were clueless.  There were no experts in first period, and I have never done a power point.

ANYWAY…the idea was to pick a negro spiritual to play in the background of your power point and then pick pictures and quotes that went with the spiritual to display on the screen.  So, say, if you were writing about Frederick Douglass and you picked “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” for your background music, you would find your quotes from before he escaped to freedom.  Does that make sense?

My class never got to that, but as I was wandering around trying to help people pick out songs, I heard one boy say, “We’re not pickin’ anything with Jesus or Lord or heaven or anything like that in it.”

The hostility in his voice amazed me.

I said,”That’s what the spirituals were.  Do you remember when Douglass said they sang because they were sad?  The spirituals gave them hope for living in a better place.”

He shook his head.  “I don’t care,” he said.  “I don’t believe in God.  That’s why I don’t have to say the pledge.”

I know you have to stand up for what you believe in, but the boy’s comment made me sad.  I have been on the other side, refusing to write pretending I was homosexual when I went back to school for my English certification.    In that instance, I told the teacher that if she had to give me an F, that’s the way it would have to be.  ( She didn’t, though). I suppose this boy feels the same way.

Still, he’s so young.  And if he can’t see that the spirituals accomplished many things, one of which was to give hope to a downtrodden people, what is he going to do when he needs a little hope?

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1 Response to “A Prejudice I Didn’t Expect”


  1. 1 The voice of melody December 4, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    It’s a shame that the boy feels the way he does but hopefully, as he gets older, he’ll come to realize he was wrong.


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