Teacher Gets Hateful Tweets for Decorating His Classroom

September 8th 2016

Lucy Tiven

A New Orleans fifth grade teacher's classroom decorations have spurred a discussion about race and education on social media.

The teacher, who goes by Mr. Wilson, tweeted an image of his classroom decked out in signs and illustrations celebrating black history.

The decor included a drawing of the Little Rock Nine, a nod to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a bulletin board reading "put some respek on your grades."

tweet classroon

While some Twitter users praised his effort to connect with students and educate them about Black history, others said the images were racist.

One troll went so far as to say Mr. Wilson's choice explained racial differences in reading proficiency — a complicated issue related to income inequality and disparities in the quality of public education in the United States.

The kerfuffle was shared in a Thursday Tumblr post, where others weighed in on the controversy, taking issue with accusations that the teacher was racist.

Much of the backlash hinged on the idea of reverse racism — a false comparison between anachronistic instances in which white people feel oppressed and the systemic oppression that black and brown people have faced throughout U.S. history and continue to face today.

There is nothing "racist" about teaching students black history — an important part of history that should be taught, even/especially because it sheds light on white America's treatment of communities of color over the years.

mlk sign

One Tumblr user succinctly refuted the backlash:

"Isn’t this just basic US history? Like we studied Little Rock in the UK. How can just historical events be racist?"

American history is inextricably linked to the country's history of slavery and segregation, the civil rights movement, and a fight for racial equality that remains unfinished — all of which is important to teach in history class.

This means that many historical events present white America with uncomfortable realities.

Educating young students of all races about these issues is an important and crucial project. The erasure of historical moments that make white people feel uncomfortable is actually the issue — and it happens in textbooks across the country — and it's contradictory to the larger point of education in general, which requires wrestling with difficult ideas and injustices.