2002-09-07 / Columnists

From the G-Man

By Gary G. Toms
Reading, Writing and Respect

Hey people! With the school season officially kicking off this week, I’ve decided to write a special column for every student out there from the lower grades to high school. Ever since I was fortunate enough to speak at "Career Day" at P.S. 43, and in other venues, I have developed a bond with many of the area kids. Some of them see me on the streets, and they are quick to say, "What’s up G-man?" or "Yo, that’s the man that came to our school to talk to us. He kept it real!" While I have not been afforded the opportunity to have more "rap sessions" with many kids in the local schools, it feels good to know that most of the kids I’ve spoken to did not take me lightly. However, there are still a few "jug heads" out there that just don’t get it, and they will be prancing into the classroom, as they do every year, with the sole purpose of being disruptive and disrespectful to both teachers and students. The G-man is inviting these clowns to take out their notebooks, grab a #2 pencil, and get ready to take notes. I will be giving a pop quiz in the future, and I don’t grade on a curve. So, listen up.

There is nothing funny about being in a class and cracking jokes while the teacher is trying to broaden the minds of students who actually want to learn. While many students are able to realize that there’s a time to play and a time to get serious, there are always those who think the classroom is a stage on which to do stand-up comedy. Everything is a big, fat joke to them, and they seem to believe that they can joke their way through the school year. These are the same people that try to get the smartest students in class to help them when tests are given by saying, "Move your paper a little to the left. I can’t see what you marked for number 14."

The people who are behaving in this manner do nothing to help the students in the class. They are preventing kids from learning and are extremely annoying. A little joke here and there is fine, but to constantly disrupt the classroom flow for laughs and a need for attention is unacceptable. It may seem like a great idea to some, but the many who are affected in the end, through poor test scores and no clear grasp of the subject matter, pay a serious price. The teachers should be able to teach, and students deserve the right to be taught. It’s that simple.

The teachers can do but so much to deal with the situation, and the real power lies with the students. Comedians have no show if they don’t have an audience. If you ignore these people long enough, they will come to realize that they either have to stop this annoying pattern and take the class seriously, or they will stop going to class altogether. I prefer they stay in the class and try to do the work, but if they feel that the only recourse they have is to misbehave, then throw them out or get them some professional help.

The other thing that really upsets me is the blatant disrespect by students to teachers. Yes, there are some teachers that behave in a questionable manner in the classroom, and they deserve to be bounced from the system if they are harming students in any way. However, some kids deem it necessary to take action on their own against a teacher, especially in cases where they feel the teacher has disrespected them in front of the class. This gives rise to teacher/student confrontations, which has become a serious issue for many Board of Ed officials and legal experts. To all of those kids who have a short fuse, or a need to prove themselves in front of the class, I suggest the following.

Instead of allowing yourself to get to the point where you want to swing at a teacher, think about what you might be throwing away. Realize that somewhere, someone is salivating over the thought, "Oh yeah! Great! This idiot just helped us boost the statistics regarding the fact that CERTAIN PEOPLE just don’t want to learn." Realize that laws have been set in place over the last year and a half that say you will face criminal charges if you so much as breathe on a teacher. Realize the impact of Brown vs. The Board of Education and Plessy vs. Ferguson, and how the landmark decisions allowed many the opportunities to get a quality education. Realize what sacrifices were made in order for you to even be in a school setting. Don’t ruin your chances to live a productive and successful life because of pride, ignorance or actions you may later come to regret. No matter what the situation, always remember that you are in control of the outcome. Don’t let anything, or anyone, remove you from the educational process. If you do, the outlook will be bleak, and you will regret it for the rest of your life.

If you feel the situation has gotten out of control, you can always speak to school administrators, file a complaint, or write your own complaint, sign it, have it notarized, and submit it to school officials. Taking these measures will offer some sense of protection, and it will illustrate that you have taken a positive and professional approach to handling the problem.

I take these matters very seriously, but the one subject that I will fight to the death over, involving young people in the classroom, is reckless use of the word nigger. I have addressed this issue in numerous columns, and I will continue to do so because I am so passionate about it. The situation borders on self-loathing, and it has gotten to the point where I have challenged kids, one on one and in groups, over this twisted "term of endearment". Too many are using it, and now you have young Asian, German, Irish, Latino and Jewish kids spewing the word. Calling each other nigger has become part of the norm, and young, ignorant Black folks have no idea that they are setting the civil rights movement back 200 years with their reckless disregard for history and culture.

Recently, I challenged some kids to defend their position on using the word.
"It don’t have the same meaning as it did back when we was marching for civil rights. Today, it means "my boy" or "my friend," said one female.

"I don’t see anything wrong with the word personally. I think old folks just have a problem with it. It’s a new day, and a new generation. You feel me, son," said a young, Black male.

I asked them the following questions. First, I asked how many in the group knew who Rosa Parks was. They all acknowledged her as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement. I then asked how they would feel if someone just walked up to her and called her a nigger. They said they would kill the person who did that. I then asked how many of them would say the word nigger in her presence? They said they would never do it because it would probably hurt her. I then asked, "So what is the difference between using it in her presence and in the presence of others who are offended by it?" They all were silent.

I pressed the issue by asking them, "If a designer released a fragrance called "Nigga" tomorrow, and a group of white people walked into a crowded movie theater and one proclaimed, "Damn, it smells like "Nigga" in here," what do you think would happen to those white people?

"They’d probably get stomped. I get what you’re saying G-man," said the young man.

I concluded by stating that it made no sense to me how they could run around, smiling, and lovingly referring to each other as "my nigger," but if a white, red, green or blue person were to call them that, they would be ready to take someone’s head off.

"I’m feeling you G-man. I’m feeling you," said another young man. For those who may not understand what that means, it means he understood and liked my point.

Although they may never refrain from using the word, I got them to see the danger of it. I can only hope and pray that more kids will start to realize it too.

I believe that many of the kids in school are there because they truly want to learn. They choose to become disruptive for any number of reasons, but the bottom line is that they can achieve if they focus and take education seriously. School is not difficult if you do what you are supposed to do to get through it. If you have negative people around you, you are dead in the water. If you have positive people in your life, and are willing to apply yourself, school can be a cakewalk. Don’t give me any crap about school being too hard, or too boring because I felt the same way at first, and I got through it.

Remember kids, school is merely a training ground for life. If you elect to screw up in school, you may as well kiss your future goodbye. Respect yourselves and those around you, and your future will look a whole lot brighter. Trust me on that.

Special thanks to Peninsula Hospital Center CEO, Bob Levine, and the third floor nursing staff of PHC. My mother has been under their care for the last week, and they have treated her exceptionally well. The G-man appreciates you high level of professionalism and caring. Thank you.

See you next week!


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