A white teacher at a New Orleans high school is under fire after telling his students it was OK for him to say the word “n****r.”
The incident, which happened Thursday at Benjamin Franklin High School, has since gone viral after a video of his heated discussion with a black student was posted on Twitter.
The 2:20 clip shows the teacher, who has only been identified as Coach Ryan, in the middle of an argument with the student.
“That’s racist as sh*t,” the student said. “Why can you not understand that it’s racist for a white man to say ‘n****r’ to a black man? It’s f**king racist.”
The teacher then said that “n****r” is “a commoditized word” that no longer has its original meaning after being used so many times.
“It’s used by black people,” the student said.
“It’s used by everyone,” the teacher countered, causing the student to shout back, “No! No! You use it! Don’t say everyone.”
The teacher suggested the word can now be said without a negative connotation, and tried to justify his views by mentioning its use in rap songs.
“Are those people being negative when they use it?” the teacher asked.
The student reminded him when the word “n***a” is used in music it’s “by black men.”
The teacher later contradicted himself by saying, “Nobody uses that word,” before saying it again.
He then told the student, “You cannot go through life and act like a word can affect you.”
After the class, students posted video of the incident on social media and also stormed the principal’s office for a sit-in.
Educators turned the incident into an hour-long assembly “about the difficulties and the issues that still exist around race, around identity, around the things that aren’t resolved,” Principal Patrick Widhalm told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Widhalm told HuffPost the teacher is not teaching pending a full investigation.
Dr. Henderson Lewis Jr., the Orleans Parish School Board superintendent, issued a statement to local station WVUE, saying he condemned “the use of language of a derogatory or inflammatory nature.”
“As educators we must strive to instill respect and sensitivity to others in our students and hold all adults and students to this standard,” he said.