A white teacher at a multi-racial San Diego elementary school was suspended for using the H-word while reciting an iconic Harlem Renaissance poem about how black writer County Cullen faced racism as a child.
Amy Glancy, a fourth-grade teacher at a high-tech elementary school in Point Loma, read aloud racist slurs from the well-known poem “The Incident”, causing two upset students to run out of the classroom and others to complain to the school’s dean.
“I can’t believe you did it!” one student said before leaving the room with another distraught peer, Glancy told Los Angles Times columnist Sandy Banks.
‘RS. Glancy, you don’t understand how hard it is to hear that word,” one of Glancy’s students said after class, before complaining to the dean.
Glancy, who is a freshman at a high-tech elementary school, said Banks that she decided not to censor the poem “to demonstrate that the poet’s words can evoke emotions — in this case, anger and sadness.”
Amy Glancy, a white San Diego elementary school teacher, was suspended for using the “N” word while reciting the famous Harlem Renaissance poem “The Incident.” She is pictured above with a group of her students.
When she read the racist slur, two students ran out of the classroom while others reported her to the school’s dean. County Cullen’s “Incident”, published in 1925, describes his experiences of racism as a child.
She said she didn’t expect to be at the center of a debate about whether young children should be exposed to offensive language or other sensitive material in an educational setting.
The County Cullen Incident, published in 1925, tells of the narrator visiting Baltimore at the age of eight and seeing a “Balitmore” boy sticking out his tongue and calling the narrator the N-word.
The narrator writes about the impact of this interaction and that despite spending seven months in the city, this is the memory he remembers the most.
“On Tuesday, a High Tech Elementary teacher read a poem to students that had words that upset some. We take these issues very seriously,” High Tech spokesman Anthony Millican said in a statement to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
“Incident” Cullen County
One day, driving through old Baltimore, With a heart, with a head of jubilation, I saw the Baltimore fortress looking right at me.
Now I was eight years old and I was very small, And he was nothing more, And so I smiled, but he stuck out His tongue and called me: “Nigga.”
I saw all of Baltimore from May to December; Of everything that happened there, That’s all I remember.
Millican confirmed that Glancy was placed on administrative leave following the incident and said the school is “committed to making sure the school is a safe place for all of our students,” Millican added.
After seeing her students’ reaction, Glancy apologized to her parents in an email that was seen by the San Diego Union-Tribune.
“I got an amazing lesson today trying to teach your students the mood and tone of poetry,” she wrote.
“The lesson was intended to demonstrate that the words of a poet can evoke emotions—in this case, anger and sadness. Unfortunately, this caused very strong emotions in the students, which I did not expect, ”she wrote.
According to US News, a high-tech elementary school in the San Diego Unified School District has 64% minority students: 42.2% Hispanic/Latino, 36% White, 7.2% Asian/Asiatic-Pacific Islander , 6.7% are black. or African American, 5.7% are of mixed ethnicity and 2.1% are Native American.
Michael Dominguez, chairman of the San Diego Unified School District’s ethnic studies committee, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he advises anyone who is not black not to use the N-word, even if it is used in an educational context.
“Words matter, and for anyone… without context, without preparation, without framing and reflection, seeing one of these words or hearing one of these words pop up in the context of literature can be really a trigger because it triggers this whole historical connection. trauma, frustration and feelings of otherness,” Dominguez said.
“It takes learning, it takes skill and support, and we need to provide our teachers with more of that, not superficial material,” he said.
Francine Maxwell, chairman of the San Diego-based black men and women union, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that she received calls from families from high-tech elementary schools about the incident.
“We need to acknowledge the trauma that has been caused and what we can do to overcome it and begin to heal,” she told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Given that this is Black History Month and events are intensifying, we see this as an opportunity to start a dialogue that hasn’t happened.”
The Earl Cullen, born Earl Leroy Porter, moved in with the pastor of Harlem’s largest congregation, the Reverend Frederick A. Cullen of the Salem Methodist Episcopal Church, beginning in 1918 after the death of his paternal grandmother and guardian.
He began his poetry career at New York University and later earned a master’s degree from Harvard University, where he published his first collection of poetry, Color, according to his bio on the Poetry Foundation.
Cullen received a Guggenheim Fellowship to write poetry in France in 1928 and married Nina Yolande Dubois, daughter of prominent civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois. Cullen was secretly bisexual and broke off the marriage by writing to his wife a letter in which he confessed his love for men.
He had a series of homosexual relationships before marrying Ida Mae Robertson in 1940, with whom he remained until his death in 1946.
According to US News, San Diego Unified School District’s high-tech elementary school is 64% minority.
The charter school placed Glancy on administrative leave following the incident, saying the school is “committed to making sure the school is a safe place for all of our students.”
Glancy said she decided not to censor the poem “to demonstrate that a poet’s words can evoke emotions—in this case, anger and sadness.”
Glancy told Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks that she wanted to “raise the voices of black poets” and chose The Incident due to its focus on U.S. history “from a non-white perspective”.
She added that after students ran into her after class, she said she shared “the poet’s experience and his language, and it’s not my job to censor.”
Glancy told Banks that she regretted saying the word out loud.
“I’m trying to educate myself. I want to achieve more,” she told the writer.
“My biggest struggle is that I am fairly well educated and literate, and I read a lot of views that differ from mine. I’m looking for information and so far I had no idea. That’s what scares me,” she added.
Glancy’s reaction comes amid a growing debate about censorship of literature and what is appropriate and necessary to teach young children.
Last month, the Tennessee School Board voted unanimously to remove Art Spiegelman’s Maus, a graphic novel about Holocaust survivors, from the eighth grade curriculum, citing a drawing of a nude woman, eight swear words and its “unwise and unhealthy” content.
On January 10, the McMinn County Board of Education voted 10–0 to remove “Maus” Art Spiegelman from the curriculum, despite educators arguing that the graphic novel is an “anchor text” in eighth grade English teaching and a central element of instruction. months of research into the Holocaust.