Suburban vs. Urban: The Fight Never Seems to End

I am so damn frustrated by something that happened at our high school basketball game the other night, and I'm going to write about it before I make the more diplomatic decision not to write about it.

Center is a high-achieving school with a great graduation rate, an excellent sense of community and a lot of kids going to college and successful careers. We have a lot of black students that attend here. For some mysterious reason* the urban and the black student part of Center seem to be emphasized when we're discussed in the news media or in conversations around the city.

*Just kidding. No mystery at all. We live in a racially divided society.

Oh, Center. What's it like there? Is it safe? Yes. I've seen one fight this year. But no one thinks that Liberty School District is unsafe, even though a kid with autism was beat so badly he was sent to the hospital last year.


How are the kids in class? Do they behave? OK, well first, dogs behave. So I hate that question already. Second, THEY'RE TEENAGERS! Some days they're great. Some days they just went through a break-up and think their world is crashing. Some days there are rumors flying and they cry. And some days they write this.

But wouldn't you rather just teach somewhere less challenging? Like where? Kansas? No.

Then when I got home, I saw this making the rounds on Facebook and I almost blew a gasket.

@siegel_katie has no deleted her entire account. The only silver lining I guess is that something
this stupid, this racist, this offensive, is at least regularly demolished by the social media universe.
So yeah, overt racism isn't cool anymore. But racial prejudice in less obvious forms? America eats that shit up!
So this gets us to the other night's basketball game. It's the third quarter between two teams in conference who are pretty good rivals, so it's intense. Center, the school with a lot of black kids, is down two to an unnamed private school with a lot of white kids. Down the lane goes our star guard for a winding, beautiful lay-up. The whistle blows calling a foul on the private school, giving our guard a free throw to take the lead. The crowd goes nuts. It's a huge swing in momentum.

After a few seconds, we all realize that there is a player on the private school's team down on the ground in pain, looking like she may have hurt her knee. Nothing dirty - she actually was the player who committed the foul - but she fell awkwardly. From what I heard later, she hyper-extended her knee rather than tore a ligament, which is great news.

As the cheers from the home crowd die down from the big play, the mom of the injured player from the private school is heard shouting several statements that, while I may not remember word for word, carry a pretty distinct sentiment:

Do you teach boxing too? 

Are you happy? Someone finally got hurt? Are you happy now? 

Get these thugs under control. 

The mom walks to her injured daughter, and has words for some of our players as she walks by. And yes, you read that correctly. This grown woman started jawing with high school teenagers who weren't even in the game.


When I got home, I saw the tweet about Peyton Manning and Cam Newton that is posted above that is clearly a race-driven commentary on Cam Newton. I mean, c'mon. He's a football player wearing a hoodie and a stocking cap. AND IT'S FEBRUARY!!! There should be nothing wrong with that, but for Cam Newton, a rather arrogant athlete* he becomes a thug. God I hate that word and all of the slime and disgust that comes with it.

*And don't kid yourself. Almost every elite athlete is arrogant. It's part of what makes them an elite athlete. They know they are better at what they do than 99.9% of the other humans on the planet. 

Back to the gym. 

As the mom walked out of the gym, one of our dads (a black dad) showed some anger towards the mom (a white mom). She had been quite rude, and the dad got defensive. I realized that if someone had caught this small altercation on camera and it had gone viral, the entire world would assume that an aggressive black male is going off on a white mom who is just concerned for her kid's safety.

The life of black people in America - guilty until proven innocent.

The game has been rigged for ages, and it's still rigged. I'm so frustrated right now, and I'm just a white dude teaching mostly black kids in a community I've lived in my entire life. I'm not an insert here who doesn't fit in. This is my home. But I'm not black, and it is painfully obvious that this simple fact alone makes my life easier in lots of situations.

This woman was going off on the refs and our team about how unfair this basketball game was. Even if she was right and our team of black kids were getting the calls against a mostly white team, and she's not right about that, that game is not the game that matters. Life matters. Basketball is fun.

And the game that matters has been and continues to be rigged for me and for this mom. Too bad she seems to have no idea.

Thanks for reading this blog! I hope you'll consider taking a moment to comment below and turn this into a conversation. Whether you are an educator or not, we have all had common experiences with education both good and bad. I want to hear what you think! 

About Me:
My name is Alec Chambers. I am a high school history and government teacher at a small, urban public school in Kansas City called Center High School. We regularly kick tail. Among many awards, we were named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2014. I don't just teach at Center- I also graduated from Center in 2006 after attending Center Schools K-12. I have a degree in Political Science, a second degree in International Relations, a third degree in Education and a Master's of Arts in Teaching. I have an unofficial degree is soccer. All of those degrees have led me to the high-paying teaching profession! I have a newborn daughter and am married to the most awesome woman on the planet. Seriously. It's a proven fact.

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