Was she being racist? Or was I being sensitive?


I work as a substitute teacher.

When I was checking in at may last sub job, an older employee was writing out a tardy slip for a student. She asked the student, “So is that an ‘i’ or a ‘y’ in the middle?” Then she looked over at me and said, “You know, I used to know how to spell until I had to start writing out these student names.” I smiled and didn’t say anything.

Later at night, I was describing this interaction to my kids and I said that I had felt a little offended by the employee’s comment.

My 13 yr-old who sees no need to mince words asked me, “Do you think she was being racist?” I had earlier explained to my children that the employee and the student were different colors.

My son continued to elaborate. “See, Mom, I think the word racism is overused. Abused. I also think people have become too sensitive.But, in this case, I don’t know. I would like to think the employee was just making a comment. Then again, maybe she was being a little biased. Why can’t humans simply get along?”

I, of course, had to ruminate about this. Maybe my son was right. If I had only heard the comment and not seen the employee or the student, would I have assumed it was offensive? Or would I have just taken it at face value?

How do you set aside your own biases and read a human or a situation as it is? Doesn’t it feel like most times we read too much or too little into something?

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