A white middle school teacher in Texas is now out of a job after he admitted to a racially diverse group of students that he harbored “ethnocentric” prejudices against those of other races.
Sometime last week, the unnamed teacher at Bohls Middle School in Pflugerville, Texas, held a class discussion during which he apparently admitted to personally harboring some white supremacist notions and argued that everyone else harbored similar “ethnocentric” notions about their own race as well, even if they do not say so out loud.
“Deep down in my heart, I’m ethnocentric,” the man explained to the students, “which means I think my race is the superior one.”
“I think everybody thinks that,” he later added. “They’re just not honest about it.”
He also asserted that “everybody is a racist at that level.”
When students pushed back against his assertions, however, the teacher seemed to imply that his racism was perhaps involuntary. One student asked whether he thought “white was better than all,” and the man replied, “No.” He also repeatedly asked students to allow him to “finish” his thought.
“Did I say I don’t like people?” he asked at one point.
The entire video can be heard below. The images have been obscured to protect the identities of the students.
What prompted the discussion in the first place remains unclear.
In some ways, the sentiments expressed by the teacher resemble those advocated by Robin DiAngelo, who attempts to speak for white people in general in her book, “White Fragility”:
- “[S]topping our racist patterns must be more important than working to convince others that we don’t have them. We do have them, and people of color already know we have them; our efforts to prove otherwise are not convincing.”
- “If I believe that only bad people are racist, I will feel hurt, offended, and shamed when an unaware racist assumption of mine is pointed out. If I instead believe that having racist assumptions is inevitable (but possible to change), I will feel gratitude when an unaware racist assumption is pointed out.”
- “Racism is the norm rather than an aberration. Feedback is key to our ability to recognize and repair our inevitable and often unaware collusion.”
Black activist Ibram X. Kendi has likewise averred: “Like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.”
It is not clear whether the middle school teacher in question was simply “self-aware” that he holds racist assumptions, which DiAngelo describes as “inevitable,” or whether he was proudly espousing white supremacy. Either way, many students and their parents did not take kindly to his statements.
Students heard in the video admit that they have since lost respect for the teacher, and parents have said much of the same.
“There are other personal experiences we’ve had as people of color that we had individually,” said parent Brian Hennington, “but to see this in the classroom setting is just not acceptable.”
A record producer known as Southside, whose son was supposedly in the teacher’s class, shared the video on Instagram with a message that read in part, “[T]his man told my child his race is superior[.] I don’t understand how we’re still in a world where I kno [sic] I am probably more intelligent [and] I have accomplished way more in life than this guy. …
“I’m so angry I’m loss [sic] for words,” Southside added, “but I will stand up for my child and the other black and Spanish kings and queens in this video.”
Though the Pflugerville Independent School District initially placed the teacher on administrative leave pending further investigation, an update from the district states that the man has since been fired.
“As of Monday morning, Nov. 14,” the statement from superintendent Douglas Killian said, “the teacher in question is no longer employed by Pflugerville ISD and we are actively looking for a replacement.”
Killian’s statement further lamented that the video has drawn “local and national media attention” and that it may have even jeopardized student “safety.”
“We want to reiterate that this conversation does not align with our core beliefs and is not a reflection of our district or our culture at Bohls Middle School,” the statement continued. “Pflugerville ISD and Bohls MS staff work together to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for all of our students. The advisory discussion was inappropriate, inaccurate, and unacceptable; and this type of interaction will not be tolerated in any PfISD schools.”
Counselors have been made available to students who would like to discuss the incident further.