One weekend a month, I run a special educational program, in cooperation with the local public library, that helps low income high school students prepare for getting into college. Some are white. A few are black. Most are Latino.
Two weekends ago, a student who happens to be Latino started acting out during a test. Clearly frustrated by his inability to master the subject matter, and showing off to a couple of girls sitting next to him, the student began surreptitiously throwing pieces of broken pencil at me.
I was not sure how to respond at first. I didn’t want to disrupt the class in the middle of the test, so I decided to wait until the break to talk to him. Not happy with my seeming lack of interest in his antics, the student then started making funny noises that sounded amazingly like drops of water in a bucket.
It was then I noticed an earnest and extremely muscular student on the other side of the room staring daggers at the noise maker. I knew I had to do something to quell the disturbance right there, not only for the sake of a class but also for the sake the disruptive student’s physical well being.
I asked the student pick up his belongings and follow me into the hall, where I told him that he was free to leave, but if he wanted to stay his misbehavior would have to stop.
Then the student called me a racist. He claimed I was picking on him because he was Latino, and that I wouldn’t be pulling him out of the class if he were White.
I explained to the student that his race had nothing to do with my disciplining him, but that his behavior was simply unacceptable and disturbing to his classmates.
Of course, my protestations had no absolutely no effect on the student’s opinion that I was indeed a racist, an opinion which he continued to declare loudly and repeatedly as he confidently strutted out of the building.
Was the student race baiting? You bet he was. He was making specious and unsupported claims of racial victimization in order to distract from his own obnoxious behavior.
Was it extremely hurtful to me personally? Right again. Not to mention how I felt walking back into that classroom.
I tell this story not as an allegory for the unfortunate events of the other day, but to lend context to my argument that race baiting is a very real and insidious tactic used by opportunists of every color to cover for their alternate agendas.
Of course, that is NOT to deny that prevalent and often virulent racist attitudes do indeed exist practically everywhere humans with even slightly different skin pigments commingle, but when charges of racism are recklessly hurled without solid foundation and good faith belief, this ‘cry wolf’ behavior serves both to undermine the credibility of those with genuine claims and to alienate many who might otherwise be sympathetic to those claims.
Which brings me to my main point.