A letter from parents to the principal at a Christian school.
*All names have been substituted to not only protect the identity of the parties but convey an allegory reality of race relations in the USA, have some fun and laugh light at something heavy.
Good morning Principal Owl –
On several occasions this year, my husband and I have taken time out to share with Mrs. Mary Magdalene Rottweiler our son and the manners/curriculum in which she has dealt or referred to him that we felt were derogatory or otherwise inappropriate given that he is a person of African descent. Yesterday, my husband and Ms. Rottweiler had a conversation as it regarded Bishop’s make up assignment for the American Revolutionary War. There were some issues with the call and we wanted to share some of our concerns.
Specifically, as I refer to my desk calendar, we spoke on the following dates
- Parent Teacher Conference in October
- December (with you Mrs. Owl)
- And this latest incident around the American Revolutionary assignment
We spoke with you of the latest incident when Mrs. Rottweiler singled out my son to play a freed slave during the American Revolution Day. In a previous assignment, he was given a project to illustrate a slave plantation.
I will be the first to admit that racism, if you are not on the receiving end of it, can be a tricky to identify. As we have met and spoken several times, we do not get the impression that Mrs. Rottweiler is malicious in her intent or seeking to damage our son. Thus, I am taking this opportunity to explain to you in detail how her actions were racist and how these actions are in fact detrimental to our son. At the same time understanding that as we are patient, hopeful and seeking Christ in Mrs. Mary Magdalene Rottweiler, we are equally as adamant that these actions must stop at once.
In the simplest of terms, to ask our son who is of African descent to role play a former slave of African descent is an extremely negative psychological reference for him. He was not a slave, nor is he the descendant of slaves (I am Ethiopian from the continent of Africa. I came here on a plane from Ghana with my father who was an executive with Ethiopian Airlines).
He is the descendant of Kings and Queens, proud country men that developed the first civilizations and the first global empires. Bishop’s father is mixed with Caribbean (Trinidadian) and Latin (Panamanian) roots comes from West African Chieftains, more than likely of the Igbo or Yoruba tribes (Nigeria and Sierra Leone). Yet, and still Bishop must internalize this role and act it out (in front of his white classmates who all play men and women who were born free). He is only 11 years old! Freed or otherwise, a free slave was still enslaved.
Those who did the enslaving were neither Christian, nor good people in their actions.
In fact, they were monsters. They are monsters. Also, as kids have their own world out on the playground and after school, there is the chance that these negative references will take a life outside of the class play. We have asked her to not typecast our son in these types of roles again and yet she insists upon why it is an appropriate reference.
Please LISTEN Mrs. Mary Magdalene Rottweiler. You are not an African American parent. I am working with you who is working with my son for his comprehensive development. We have been patient, loving, consistent and giving in our articulation of Bishop’s development. She simply will not listen. He is 11. She is a mature professional and grown woman entrusted with our son’s well being. Let a Rottweiler be a Rottweiler, right!
We know Mrs. Rottweiler is a veteran of your Christian school who has graduated my successful seniors from the program and we know she is a dedicated teacher; dedicated to the successful spiritual cultivation of her students but it’s interesting: out of Bishop’s 5 teachers, she is the only one that we must sit with or have these exchanges with consistently. I will say that we sent a packet to her and 3 of Bishop’s other teachers at the beginning of the year – replete with transcripts, art work and work he had done over the summer.
When we requested the materials back several weeks later, hers was the only one unopened, unmarked. Each teacher received a portion of the packet that was particular to their class – Mr. Badger, received a “business plan” for an intergalactic space mining center. Mrs. Giraffe received poetry Bishop had written over the summer in his handwriting. Mrs. Fox received math work sheets. Every teacher, with the exception of Mrs. Rottweiler wrote encouraging comments back.
Further, when we met with Mrs. Mary Magdeline Rottweiler earlier this year to discuss Bishop’s background and who he was, she was not at all open to listening. Instead saying, ”I am sensitive to all of my students” and essentially shutting us up. This happens every time we speak: “I am sensitive to all of my students.” She was speaking and we were trying to share. Perhaps we should take the time with you present Mrs. Owl to share our concerns and ideas with Mrs. Rottweiler?
We wonder what the experiences of other African American children in her classes have been throughout the years?
- What their grades were relative to their white counterparts?
- How many played slaves or freed slaves?
- How many Latinos or Asians were given the roles of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington or other Founding Fathers?
- How many Caucasian children were asked to perform as slaves or freed slaves?
- How many were asked to perform as Abdul-Rahman ibn Ibrahimi Sori (a prince from West Africa and a slave in the United States for 40 years until President John Quincy Adams freed him)
- or Abraham, a black slave who carried messages between the frontier and Charlestown during wars with the Cherokee, for which he was freed?
Mrs. Rottweiler has noted defensively, she is not responsible for the curriculum, and does not control what is in it. We have shared outside materials from university presses as Harriet Tubman or Denene Millner’s press with her in previous meetings, even offering gifts – surely these books can be used for individual projects; or class projects. She might also host American Culture days for history where parents of different nationalities, different culture share their Taiwanese culture, share the Ethiopian culture, share the Latino culture (Mexican or Ecuadorian) with the rest of the class.
Does the art work and class materials in her class reflect its rich Christian diversity? Some recommendations in lieu of the curriculum, in lieu of her “classic” materials – Some ideas which have been shared with her and she has been non-responsive instead offering she is familiar with the material.
Again, I trust that her intent with our son was not to harm his psyche.
Diversity sensitivity issues can be tricky, so if she has any questions about how she should approach the diverse offering of children in her class, she should feel free to proactively reach out to us directly. We have always and will continue to take a very active role with Chris education and classes. We sire king.
So, long story short, we have decided to begin teaching Bishop in addition to his curriculum with Mrs. Rottweiler as it is really having a negative effect upon Christian’s development and his psyche. Specifically we will be teaching him about Africans in America who worked as freed men and women the Northeast performing trade and commerce.
We will also teach him of the 1500s (American Revolution) and 1800s (Civil War) contributions of African Americans and Africans to US History, math, science and inventions as the light filament. Basically, we will have weekly assignments to counter her negative programmatic class teachings. We will do twice the amount of work she does for his classmates in her class, as she is unwilling to work with us as we offer suggestions and other supplemental materials.
I guess the adage in the African American community of, “twice as good to get half” is true in Mrs. Rottweiler’s class. Bishop is getting a first hand experience of institutional racism and how it works. Sadly, this adage has also been true of women in our society.
We do hope this negative programmatic curriculum and Mrs. Rottweiler unwillingness to hear us out does not continue to affect his grade.
Principal Owl, thank you for your efforts to be a positive influence in our son’s life. We recognize your excellence and the love you bring to church, singing in the choir, directing traffic and other administrative concerns. We remain committed to your Catholic School’s core values of Truth, Community, Character and Spiritual Growth. We recognize that we are all Christians, a single family under Christ. We are committed to our spiritual growth, Christian’s spiritual growth and that of our community of teachers and principal. We will continue to bring Jesus Christ into this conversation and will continue to pray for the leadership at our Christian Schools.
In Christ, Lion of Judah,
Parents of the New Power Generation Kings and Queens
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