After 14-year-old Jordan Shumate read a Langston Hughes poem aloud in his English class, his teacher had one question for the teen: “I thought you were black?”

Shumate, a ninth-grader at Marshall High School in Falls Church, Va., says he was reading “Ballad of the Landlord” when his teacher, Marilyn Bart, offered him some advice.

“She told me, ‘Blacker, Jordan — c’mon, blacker. I thought you were black,'” the teen said. But that wasn’t all. According to Shumate, Bart went on to read the poem “like a slave” and wanted him to do the same.

When the teen asked his teacher if she thought all black people spoke like that–you know, like we are constantly auditioning for Roots–he was reprimanded and told to take a seat.

Shumante, the only black student in his class, says the way he was singled out by his teacher was “very, very unprofessional,” and he wondered “why’d she have to do it to me?”

According to the Huffington Post, this wasn’t the first time Shumante’s teacher asked him to black it up for the class. Previously, the teacher asked if all black people like grape soda and to rap a poem about a rapper.

When I was teaching English, I’d often ask my students to reread poems with more “emotion” or “feeling,” but blacker? I don’t think so.

Hearing about this story I hoped it was an outtake from Everybody Hates Chris, but sadly, this is real life.

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  • Dalili

    @gryph: The proper phrasing would have been to ask him to read it colloquially or in the dialect in which it was written. She’s an English teacher, she should at least know that. The fact that she’d previously asked him “to explain why blacks like grape soda and rap music” lends to the notion that she may be racist or at least fond of stereotyping. Either way she could have handled this situation differently.

    • @mami. music to my ears, lol. next the clicking. it’s sexy. call me `!gryph’ please, lol

      @dalilii. i’m not defending the teacher. she’s likely engaged in some racist mindf*cking of a kid she might feel threatened by. that’s plain.

      but, without fail when something like this happens, the non-white afro-ams – or who hughes might call the black nordics – take that as a cue to ‘testify’ about being scorned by black people for being smart or speaking ‘correct’ (which they seem to think are synonymous).

      that actually is MORE `racist’ than what the teacher did. responses like cast `blackness’ as a wasteland, a place that a reasonable person tries to escape from. that attitude is far worse than whites’ racial insecurities.

      in fact this kid, has already learned to play that card in order to get support says a lot about what he has learned.