Being White and Teaching in da ‘Hood

By Francesca


Y’all remember those mornings as a ten-year-old when you’d come to class stressed the F out cause you hadn’t finished your math homework? You just knew that when you sat down your teacher would take real-life joy from reporting you to your parents who had ZERO tolerance for your foolishness. But what about those days when you’d come to class and find some substitute sitting at your miserable teacher’s desk? Truth, on those days I’d secretly be thinking: “YASSSS!” All my dread turned into pure delight cause I knew I didn’t have to do one lick of real work and that I could be as bad as I wanted to be cause this teacher can’t tell me NOTHING. But then there would be those teacher’s like Jess Hilarious’ “Ms. Ropplebugger.” You know, the “white savior” types who’d wake up thinking they are actually going to save the world one ghetto kid at a time.



Isn’t that sweetest? Except, nah it isn’t. Jess Hilarious’ re-telling of the morning Ms. Ropplebugger played “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up” poignantly asks us to consider what happens when white privilege prevents teachers from genuinely understanding and empathizing with the realities facing low-income students of color. The truth is Ms. Ropplebugger can’t relate to her students. This world is too unfamiliar. Can you imagine? All the Cosby episodes she’d watched back in the day just hadn’t prepared her for this moment. It’s tragic really.

Jess Hilarious’ informal comedy sketch reminds us that Ms. Ropplebugger’s white privilege blinds her from understanding that these students don’t share her same reference points and models of success. And the worst part is that she ain’t even trying to figure out why that is the case. And when the kids seem to be offering up one too many “seedy” job aspirations after another, Ms. Ropplebugger JUST. CAN’T. TAKE. IT. And she secretly wishes she could jump out the window and run right back to the comfort of her white wine and endless episodes of “Friends.” Luckily, she has the ability to run away when things get hard. Tyrone, Felicia and Dontavion aren’t so lucky. Jess tickles us while sparking critical thinking about what happens when white teachers try to help and it all goes miserably wrong. I mean, just cause you listen to Fetty Wap on weekdays and twerk on weekends doesn’t mean you have the necessary compassion and understanding to teach in the hood.



Y’all teachers gon’ have to do a little bit better than that. You feel me?

So, if you’re white and don’t want to make Ms. Ropplebugger’s same mistakes, here’s a short “How to Genuinely Teach in the Hood.” First, listen to students without judging them and imposing biases and values on them. I know it’s hard when your white conservative respectability overwhelms you, but trust me, it’s not that hard to do. Second, instead of rewriting a kid’s dreams, how about you give them constructive mentorship and explain why the versions of success they see are examples of limitations. Kids appreciate honesty and care – afterall, they can sniff out the BS better than anyone. Finally, no one likes disingenuous charity. It’s like that one Christmas when your kid finds out Santa Claus isn’t real and you keep livin’ the lie. They’re not only annoyed that they believed in this foolish story to begin with, but they’re ashamed that you kept up the lie for this long. So, the moral of this story is: if you’re the Ms. Ropplebugger of your school district, and all you want to do is leave the minute you show up, it’s probably best that you stay home that day.



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