So This is Christmas?! {School Program Fail}

Author’s Note :: To ensure accuracy, I acknowledge that the written song lyrics do not state “black Jesus.” That said, many students including my own daughter were visibly confused by the dialect. The lyrics also do not change my own personal sentiments about the Duck Dynasty brand, which in my view is riddled with racist overtones and other cultural issues. My hope is that my experience and perspective opens a dialog regardless of the literal lyrics on paper.

So This Is Christmas?!

Today I took off of work for a couple hours and proudly set off to support my daughter (my middle child) in her school Christmas program. I sat with the other parents excitedly watching my mini me interact with her peers as we waited for the holiday joy to ensue.             

The first group got up and sang a sweet and spirited rendition of Holly Jolly Christmas, followed by a solo performance of Oh Holy Night. Next up was my daughter’s class. I sat up straight with my camera ready as they proceeded to the center of the stage. The music began and the narrator announced 4th grade class performing Duck Dynasty’s Hairy Christmas. My face instantly dropped. I noticed other parents in the crowd looking slightly uncomfortable and others just completely disinterested as this was clearly not a familiar Christmas tune.

What struck me the most was the look on my daughter’s face. My child … the performer, the gifted and talented program student, the one always ready to put on a show … was noticeably displeased and unenthusiastic about this performance. I realized immediately she must feel completely out of place. She haphazardly mouthed the words “we got black Jesus” and did the moves with no smile, no sparkle. I became livid! So angry that this public school, a place that as a teacher I know should be a safe haven and refuge, had made my baby feel completely out of place.

In a time where we preach inclusion, what the HELL was this? I could not believe that the school and the teachers (who I am sure were well meaning) could have made such a poor choice! This was an irresponsible and unacceptable cultural fail by the school. I later spoke to a few mom friends and realized this is not an isolated issue BUT an epidemic in many schools. From private to public, my friends told me their own tales of their black children being dressed up in prairie clothes or in other culturally improper things and forced to perform. Teaching children about things and having them dress up and perform for entertainment purposes are not the same.

As educators, it is our responsibility to protect the emotional space of each child, and this was a true violation. When will it be safe for people of color to participate without our parents needing to pre-approve the activity. Just FYI … it is not okay to dress my child up as and have her perform to known racist music, nor is it okay to dress my friend’s child up as a slave for a school performance.

It is not cute, it is not funny, it is hurtful, and our kids deserve better!

9 Responses to So This is Christmas?! {School Program Fail}

  1. Toni Simpson December 19, 2017 at 11:09 pm #

    The song’s lyrics are “like Jesus and Santa Claus”..did they change the lyrics to say “black Jesus”?

  2. Katie December 20, 2017 at 10:47 am #

    I’m so sorry this happened to your daughter. That hurts my heart for her. Why? Who thought that was a good idea?

  3. Michael December 20, 2017 at 4:58 pm #

    What is this nonsense? Good Lord you are a snowflake.

  4. Courtney December 20, 2017 at 5:57 pm #

    Do you mind me asking what school this was at?

  5. Ash Williams December 21, 2017 at 5:29 pm #

    Nikyla,

    First off, thank you for being a teacher. I truly believe that teachers are undervalued in our society and I appreciate your willingness to take on such an important, albeit difficult, role in children’s lives.

    Second, have you considered that perhaps you are the one that has an issue with stereotypes? You subconsciously assumed that since a song was about “Duck Dynasty” (I’m not a fan either) that the song was going to be racist, and you let those preconceived notions affect your reality and perception of what actually occurred. Isn’t this exactly the type of prejudgment that you and others in the African American community are fighting to end? Perhaps looking inward to your own preconceived stereotypes about people and cultures other than your own will help you move past these imagined slights in your life.

    Additionally, you speak about African American children being forced to dress in “prairie clothes or in other culturally improper things.” Your daughter was wearing camouflage. Are you insinuating that camouflage is somehow racist? You are aware that African American people hunt, aren’t you? How is an African American child wearing camouflage culturally improper? Again, I believe that your own preconceived biases have forced you to take offense at nothing more than a silly song being performed by your daughter’s class.

    I hope your children don’t share these preconceived biases because it is only through teaching the younger generations to judge others for their true worth that we can all finally live together in the peace we all hope for.

    Thanks for starting this dialogUE.

  6. Jpain December 21, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

    The lyrics literally say like Jesus, how that can be confused with black Jesus is the real problem. It would almost appear you searched for a reason to find a racist undertone.

  7. Chaz December 21, 2017 at 7:02 pm #

    So, you got the lyrics wrong and are still crying racist? You were all for your daughter dressing up and performing before your perceived racism. You complain about dressing your child in prairie clothes and other culturally improper things but I’d be willing to bet that you would complain if the school tried to have culturally appropriate attire for you child as they would then be stereotyping. The song is goofy but not racist. Sorry you misheard the lyrics and got all in a tizzy.

  8. John December 21, 2017 at 7:11 pm #

    Pathetic. You admit you were wrong about the lyrics yet you still try to make it a race issue.
    Reverse the situation and have a white parent saying the same things and you’d be hollering from the rooftops that the parent was being racist. God forbid your gifted and talented child had to take part in a culture other than her own.

  9. John December 22, 2017 at 7:27 am #

    Good lord. Lighten up. The performance was not targeting anybody. Just learn to have fun. Stop being a victim, lady.

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