Teacher Files Lawsuit to Justify His Use of the N-Word in Class

February 20, 2012  |  

Every so often white people take a chance using the n-word to either see if they can get away with it or to try to make a point. A Chicago teacher tried the latter last October and it ended up getting him suspended for five days without pay. Now he’s suing the public school system for his right to use the word during what he said was a “teachable moment.”

The situation occurred after two of Lincoln Brown’s students were passing notes with rap lyrics that included the n-word. According to the lawsuit, Brown then used the word in the context of Huckleberry Finn to demonstrate how such language can be hurtful, but just as the word came out of his mouth, the Murray Language Academy’s principal, George Mason, walked into his classroom. The principal accused Brown of “using verbally abusive language to or in front of students” and charged him with “cruel, immoral, negligent, or criminal conduct or communication to a student, that causes psychological or physical harm.”

So far, Brown has only served one of his five days of suspension but the 48-year-old who says he’s taught in predominantly black public schools for 25 years, is concerned about what this punishment will due to his reputation as a teacher. He told ABC news:

“It’s something I can’t accept and can’t have on my record and more importantly it’s not who I am.”

Despite the pending legal matter, Chicago Public School Director of Communications Robyn Ziegler appears to be unfazed by the lawsuit. According to WLS-TV, she issued a statement saying:

“The principal determined that the way the teacher used the word was improper and imposed a short suspension…. The teacher has received sufficient due process. In our opinion, his federal lawsuit is without merit.”

I’m curious what sort of reaction students had to Brown’s use of the word. While it’s always a little unsettling to hear a white person use the n-word, it doesn’t appear that this teacher was using it in a malicious way. Still, there are ways to make a point without actually saying the word, most people should know that’s the safest route by now.

What do you think? Does Lincoln Brown have a case? Was the school right or wrong to suspend him?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

More on Madame Noire!

Trending on MadameNoire

View Comments
Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN
blog comments powered by Disqus