A white teacher at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans is under fire for using and defending the N-word on May 4 to an African-American teen who confronted him in class (video below).
Principal Patrick Widhalm said the teacher is a permanent substitute, and the incident is being investigated, reports The Times-Picayune.
The exchange was filmed by an unidentified student, and posted on social media.
"That’s racist as s***," the student tells the teacher. "Why can you not understand that 'n*****' is racist for a white man to say to a black man? It’s f***ing racist."
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The teen polls the classroom to see if any of his peers would use the N-word.
The teacher defends the use of the N-word: "Do you know what a commoditized word is? That's a word that’s used so many times that it doesn’t mean its original meaning ... It's used by everyone ... The word has been commoditized so that anyone can use it, and it’s not a negative connotation."
The teen insists the N-word has a negative connotation when the teacher says it to him.
The teacher counters by saying people use it in songs, and the teen corrects him: "By black men."
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The teacher adds: "If you say the word, it means 'friend,' and if I say the same word, it means something different. That's not true."
The teen says the N-word has different meanings depending on the race of the person stating it.
"Not if you want the world to move on," the teacher insists. "If you want this world to be the way it was 50 years ago, then you’re true, you’re right."
The teacher uses the N-word, and the student replies: "Don’t f***ing say that. You can’t say n***** or f***ing n***** … You’re my f***ing teacher, don’t say that s***."
"Please, it’s a word," the teacher states. "You cannot go through life acting like a word can affect you."
Some students identified the teacher as Coach Ryan on social media sites, which Widhalm would not confirm. The Times-Picayune tried to contact the teacher, who did not respond.
Widhalm said several students came to the principal's office to do a sit-in, which morphed into an unscheduled assembly in the auditorium.
Widhalm stated that students of different backgrounds had "a very good dialogue about the difficulties and the issues that still exist around race, around identity, around the things that aren't resolved."
According to some students on social media, this is the second time this school year that a teacher has made a racist remark.
Orleans Parish School Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. said of this latest incident: "I condemn the use of language of a derogatory or inflammatory nature. As educators we must strive to instill respect and sensitivity to others in our students and hold all adults and students to this standard."
"The school has a strong, diverse population but like society today, we're still coming to grips with how we do that in a way that is ... empowering for everyone," Widhalm stated. "These are students who want to be part of a better school, a better society."
Benjamin Franklin High School was ranked 70th in U.S. News & World Report's recent annual best public high school rankings, noted The Times-Picayune.
Warning: This video contains graphic language.