15 People Of Color Shared The Incredibly Problematic Things Teachers Said To Them, And I'm Convinced The Bar For Educators Is Too Low

·4 min read

Parents entrust their children to their teachers and school administrators for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week – and sometimes more if the student participates in sports or extra-curricular activities. But, what happens when those teachers let their internal biases run rampant?

Teacher in front of a chalk board
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Recently, we asked people of color across the BuzzFeed Community to share times when teachers broke this trust and said problematic things to them. Here are their stories:

1."A teacher in high school asked a Chinese kid in the class how to make kimchi and if he eats it everyday. When he proceeded to tell her he doesn’t know because he doesn’t eat it since he’s Chinese, she kept insisting, 'Why not, you’re Asian though.' Poor kid had to explain (in the middle of a room full of white kids, too) that kimchi comes from Korea and just because he was Asian didn’t mean he knew the cultures of other Asian communities aside from his own."


2."I had a college counselor tell me there were scholarships for single parent households because 'Your father isn’t around right?' They knew nothing about my family situation."


3."When I was taking a standardized test in 2nd grade, the test proctor insisted I had made a mistake when I filled in the bubble next to Native American as my race/ethnicity. She stood over me and made me erase the bubble and tapped on the bubble that said Caucasian instead."


4."When I was in the 3rd or 4th grade, I was role playing as Clara Barton for our history class and my teacher told me I, 'Need to wear powder to lighten up that too dark skin.'"


5."My English teacher literally called Africa a country and said everyone there spoke Swahili and asked if I could speak some in front of the class."


  Giphy: @paleycenter / Via giphy.com
Giphy: @paleycenter / Via giphy.com

6."My 6th grade teacher (who was white) told us that 'Asian students are just smarter.' I still don’t understand why he found it necessary to state this to a room full of 11-year-olds."


7."My middle school was predominantly children of color. In 8th grade, we had to take a statewide test. A week after we took our test our teacher told us that we all aced it, but unfortunately we were going to have to re-take them. Apparently, the group that grades it refused to believe that this group of Black and brown children could have scored so high on the test. They believed that our teacher (who was Black) gave us the answers."

Artrinna Ewell

8."I am a Black woman and my teacher called me an Oreo, 'cause apparently I’m white on the inside but Black on the outside."


9."Whenever teachers found out that I’m African, they would always say something like 'I’m so sorry,' or 'You’re safe now.'"


10."When I was in 4th grade I was the only student in my class who spoke Spanish. Our class got a new student who didn't know English and only spoke Spanish, so I was asked to help him with whatever he needs. One day, I was explaining the directions on a worksheet to him and our class aid told me not to speak Spanish because Spanish should not be spoken in America. I replied by saying that Spanish is spoken in Latin America. She yelled at me and gave me detention."


11."When I was in the 9th grade my high school guidance counselor told me, 'Don't try so hard, you won't graduate anyway.' I had a 3.9 GPA at the time."


Giphy: Tumblr / Via giphy.com

12."I had a teacher in high school who would always ask me to read, then comment about how I’m 'so articulate.' I was one of 13 black people in this whole town."


13."My French teacher told me she thinks all Black people look alike and there were only 2 Black girls in the class and she always mixed us up."


14."I was in 7th grade PE and the teacher asked for my name for something that I don’t quite remember. Anyway, I told her my name, and for some reason she got offended and told me that in America you only use your father’s last name and not the mother’s."


15."My family was the only Latin family in our 1 square mile town. My twin brother took after my mom, Mexican native with island roots, so he is very dark. The teachers would joke about how he would be a janitor if he wasn’t locked up."


Are you a POC who experienced things like this in school? If you're comfortable sharing, tell us your story in the comments.

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