Va. teacher probed for telling student to read poem ‘blacker’
ABOVE PHOTO: Jordan Shumate
(Photo courtesy WJLA-TV)
A Virginia high school English teacher is under investigation for allegedly asking the lone African-American student in the class to read a poem in a "blacker" manner.
Jordan Shumate, a ninth grade student at George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Va., says he was reading aloud Langston Hughes' "Ballad of the Landlord" when teacher Marilyn Bart interrupted him.
"She told me, 'Blacker, Jordan — c'mon, blacker. I thought you were black,'" Shumate told The Washington Post.
When the 14-year-old student declined to continue reading the poem, Bart read it herself to demonstrate what she meant.
"She read the poem like a slave, basically," Shumate told the Post. When he asked whether she thought all black people speak that way, he was reportedly told to take his seat and reprimanded for speaking out of turn.
The poem was written in 1940 about a black tenant thrown in jail for challenging a landlord.
"It's very, very unprofessional," Shumate told WJLA-TV. "It should not happen. She didn't do it to any other kids. Why did she have to do it to me?"
The student brought the issue to his mother's attention after the teacher reportedly singled him out again during a lesson about stereotypes. Shumate said Bart asked him to explain why blacks like grape soda and rap music.
Shumate's mother, Nicole Page, told WAMU that she is "very sad" for her "child's loss of innocence" through the experience. The teacher had also previously asked the student to rap out a poem by black rapper and actor Tupac Shakur, Page said.
"We're in 2012 with the first African-American president," Page told WJLA-TV. "In this era how could such a statement be made, particularly by an English teacher?"
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