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Ta-Nehisi Coates At The ALOUD Series

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Back in July, scholar, activist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates quietly attended a Lexington-Richland Five School Board meeting prompted by the South Carolina district’s decision to end a Chapin High School AP Language teacher’s lesson on Coates’ 2015 nonfiction bestseller, Between the World and Me.  And because Black people really can’t tell our stories without white people getting deep in their fragile feelings, a few students complained that the lesson made them “uncomfortable” and “ashamed to be Caucasian.” Now, the teacher at the center of the controversy has been ordered to stop giving lessons on the book.

According to the Washington Post, it all started when two students reported Chapin High School English teacher Mary Wood to the school board for giving her all-white class a lesson on Coates’ book.

From the Post:

The students wrote in emails that the book — and accompanying videos that Wood, 47, played about systemic racism — made them ashamed to be White, violating a South Carolina proviso that forbids teachers from making students “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” on account of their race.

Reading Coates’s book felt like “reading hate propaganda towards white people,” one student wrote.

At least two parents complained, too. Within days, school administrators ordered Wood to stop teaching the lesson. They placed a formal letter of reprimand in her file. It instructed her to keep teaching “without discussing this issue with your students.”

The truth is, there are no Black historical stories that can be taught in their entirety while omitting all references to white supremacy because the achievements of Black heroes throughout American history happened in the face of systemic racism. This is why our stories need to be invalidated and hidden from the classroom. It’s not about all racial discomfort—just white racial discomfort. 

Wood was ordered to stop teaching Coates’ work or anything else that hurt white feelings and she was given a formal letter of reprimand. Meanwhile, white parents who were dissatisfied with the actions taken against Wood showed up to school board meetings demanding that she be fired. Wood is still employed, but now, according to the Post, she is reluctant to give any lessons that might be deemed controversial.

So, basically, white people fought lessons on white supremacy by wielding white supremacy.

And they won—again. 

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