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.