Name dropper

* Names changed

Teaching in da’ hood last Friday I had one of those rare experiences that totally left me speechless – if even for a few seconds.

One of the students in the class is a supposed school ‘tough guy’, and his girlfriend is also in the class; they, of course, sit next to each other. He wasn’t giving me any trouble, but the girl was. She pushed the envelope, I pushed it back, culminating in me having to squat down by her desk in order to make eye contact, because she refused to look at me. As I upped the timbre in my voice a bit to make my point that she needed to get with it, or face the consequences of a write up, her boy friend cast me a curious glance, but said nothing. A kid sitting behind me did, however.

“Oooo, Mr. Lucker – you better not talk to her like that or Derrick* not gonna like that. Don’t mess with him, Mr. Lucker…he’s a gansta! He’s a Crip”!

I shot the kid a half-glance over my shoulder; “Look – I don’t care if he’s Barack Obama…this aint his fight, this is between me and her”.

“Oooooo…Mr. Lucker! You a racist”!  (Nothing unusual there; at least once or twice a week a room full of teenaged African-American kids call me that).

“How’s that”?

“You said” kid behind me jumps into a pretty good impersonation of me, “’I don’t care if he’s Barack Obama’! You racist for sayin that”!


“Yeah, you racist! Why you say ‘Barack Obama’? You coulda used some white person…like Ashton Kutcher”.

Cue the silence.

Still in my Joe Mauer squat in the aisle, I turned, looked at the kid behind me; ‘Ashton Kutcher”? I said incredulously. The kid sitting next to the kid who said it nodded in agreement.

“Yeah. You could’ve said any white person and it wouldn’t be racist. Why you say Barack Obama”?

“Well, ya know, I was trying to come up with somebody important for a comparison to make a point that It doesn’t matter who doesn’t like it, that it’s something between me and her. Somebody important – like Principal Marshall* or, gee….Barack Obama”!

“You racist, Mr. Lucker”.

“Yeah…I don’t think so” shaking my head I returned my attention to the girl that prompted all this. “So, what’s it gonna be”? I asked her.

“Don’t tell me nuttin’”!!! she hollered at me, invoking the most popular of New Orleans high school student phrases,  pulling her coat over her head and plunking it down on the desk.

I stood up, walked toward the table at the front of the room to grab a write-up form, passing the kid who suggested Ashton Kutcher as a behavioral example. I shook my head as I walked by him. “Ashton Kutcher? Really”? The kid nodded vigorously; “Ashton Kutchers’ important”!

I stopped, looked squarely at the kid, trying not to laugh at his earnestness, or even crack a smile, shaking my and saying the only appropriate thing I could, considering the moment: “Man…don’t tell me nuttin’”.


2 thoughts on “Name dropper

  1. Mr Brown March 28, 2010 / 7:34 am

    haha, I like it. The racist thing isn’t just a NOLA high school thing, my 4th graders call me that all the time. Our conversation usually ends up like this.

    “so if I was racist, I wouldn’t like black people right?”
    “what color are all of you?”
    “what color is our principal?”
    “If I didn’t like black people, would I have come all the way from Ohio to work for black people and teach black people?
    “…Mr.Brown, you trippin'”


    • poetluckerate March 28, 2010 / 7:52 am

      My favorite (works very well with high school kids, though I had some success with my middle schoolers last year) response to any “Mr. Lucker, you racist” comment is to reply, “You know, most of my black friends would think that was really funny”. “You have black friends”!? is the typical response, and it usually leads to a dialogue about people having friends of different colors; a foreign concept to most of them. I have discussed this with black colleagues, and most of them see it as a good idea to broach, and as it has also been pointed out by those same colleagues, most of our kids parents/family probably don’t socialize with a very diverse crwod. I have generated some good sicussions with telling students about having black friends. Crazy stuff. What is so interesting to me though, is that just going to sub in Jefferson Parish is a whole different world; very racially diverse, at least the four high schools I have worked at.

      Love your posts, Mr. Brown. Keep fightin’ the good fight!


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