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In you’re not black enough if you don’t sound like you stepped out of a rap video news, a ninth grader in Fairfax County,Virginia’s blackness was questioned when he didn’t read a poem to his teacher’s liking in class.

George C. Marshall student Jordan Shumate said he was reading Langston Hughes’ Ballad of the Landlord aloud in class when the teacher interrupted him and told him to read “blacker.”

 “She told me, ‘Blacker, Jordan — c’mon, blacker. I thought you were black,’ ” the 14-year-old told The Washington Post.

Jordan said when he refused to continuing reading, his teacher, Marilyn Bart, picked up where he left off, demonstrating what she meant by “blacker.”

“She sounded like a maid in the 1960s,” Jordan said. “She read the poem like a slave, basically.”

Jodan said he later asked the teacher whether she thinks all black people speak that way and was reprimanded for talking out of turn. When he told his mother, Nicole Cober Page, what happened she complained to school administrators, saying if the teacher thought the poem should be delivered in a Southern dialect, she could have said so without referring to race.

Principal Jay Pearson told The Washington Post the school is investigating Ms. Bart, who has been with Fairfax Schools since 1990, and they are taking the matter very seriously.

Jordan also mentioned another incident that didn’t sit well with him recently. He said in preparation for reading literature about the Holocaust, Ms. Bart had been showing photographs to illustrate common stereotypes about different groups of people during the week. One day she showed an image of grape soda and asked him to explain its meaning.

“I do know the stereotypes,” Jordan said, “but she could change the questions so I’m not like the king of black people.”

Sounds like someone needs diversity training—at the very least.

How do you think this teacher’s actions should be handled?

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

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