A Florida teacher is on leave this week after audio of his Advanced Placement (AP) Government lecture went viral on TikTok. The videos are reaction shots of his student, user @elnegrosabrosoo, as he engages with the unnamed teacher and fellow students off-screen. It contains snippets from a lecture that include denying the abuses of enslaved people as well as arguing the definition of the N-word — in the middle of Black History Month.
On the video recorded by the Island Coast High School student, the teacher can be heard arguing with a student about whether or not enslaved people experienced abuse (specifically whipping) at the hands of their captors.
“They wouldn’t do that to the slaves,” the teacher says.
“How do you know that?” @elnegrosabrosoo asks. “Were you there?”
He pauses to laugh before asking again, “Like, how do you know?” Instead of responding, the teacher doubles down on his claims, threatens to kick the student out, and asks him to engage in an “honest conversation” about the topic. The teacher’s quick pivot to disciplinary might remind us of other forms of racism at play in schools — the frequency with which Black students are punished compared to white students.
In another damning clip, the teacher brings up the definition of the N-word by asking the students what he’s actually saying when he uses the word.
“If I call somebody the N-word, what am I calling them?” he asks the room. A student off screen responds by saying “ignorant” while @elnegrosabrosoo looks into the camera.
“The N-word just means ignorant,” the teacher goes on to say. “It doesn’t have any other meaning in any other vocabulary other than you are a stupid person. You are ignorant. You are not well read. You are not well educated. That’s what it means.”
The final clip, ironically, begins in the middle of a conversation about hate speech and an apparent claim that women don’t belong in the workforce because they should be at home managing the cooking and cleaning. “To you, that’s hate speech,” the teacher can be heard saying off screen.
“But that could be hate speech to a lot of other women because that would have offended me,” a female sounding student says. “That would have offended a lot of the other girls in the room.” @elnegrosabrosoo then asks the teacher to apply that line of thought to the N-word, too. “Because that might be hate speech to me but it won’t be hate speech to you…”
“That’s a good point,” the teacher can be heard saying just before the video, and probably his career in education, ends.
Thank you for the information we are aware and it is currently under investigation.
— Island Coast High (@ichighschool) February 14, 2021
Parents were quick to condemn the teacher on Twitter after the clips went viral over the weekend. Several complained that the investigation needed to end with the removal of the teacher from the classroom because his revisionist history would have long-term impacts on the students in his class.
“The harm he has done cannot be understated. If the obvious bigotry isn’t enough of a reason to dismiss him let me help you. In a few short months your APUSH students will be taking the AP exam,” wrote @calvin_hobbes4 in response to the high school’s tweet that the teacher was under investigation. “They can’t be prepared if they have been taught lies all school year. FIRE HIM!”
@_xorachel_ wrote that the only thing she wanted to hear from the school district was that the teacher had been fired. “Black children should not have to deal with this bs.”
Many called out the videos for being revisionist, racist, and harmful to the children who had to endure the “lesson” in the first place.
School board chair Debbie Jordan told Florida’s News-Press that she was reviewing the videos. “At this time, it has been sent to professional standards to be investigated,” she said. “We are definitely investigating this, as we would anything that would come before us.”
Fellow school board chair Gwyn Gittens told the paper that it was clear from what she saw on the video that her district still had a lot of work to do. “We are very short of teachers,” she said. “I understand that, but we need to vet the few that we have to make sure that they’re doing what it is that needs to be done.”
Gittens faulted both the teacher for failing to accurately address a conversation that had an opportunity to allow the students to share their different views, and the school district for failing to communicate with the board about the existence of the videos in the first place.
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