The ‘black’ jibe

AT TIMES small news items reflect the hidden big picture and bring to the fore issues of national importance.

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Published: Sun 20 Apr 2014, 10:27 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 9:26 PM

So is the case with a tongue-in-cheek racial comment that made international headlines on Saturday. The story that a US teacher was sacked following allegations that he was scornful of a Black president in the White House might be the tip of the iceberg. America is no exception when it comes to apartheid and segregation on the basis of race, colour or religion. Though it has come a long way from its history of discrimination on the basis of skin colour, there are instances when racism raises its ugly head in various forms.

The said school teacher, Voigt, a white US citizen, should have been given the benefit of doubt for whatever transcribed between him and a Black student who expressed his desire to become the president of the country one day. While the student alleged the teacher had told him the nation didn’t need another black president, Voigt said the student had misquoted him. Voigt said what he actually told the teen was that he doesn’t think the nation can afford another president like Barack Obama.

If it’s real, such a jibe is tolerable. But firing the teacher on account of his past records, including foul-mouthing, is devoid of logic. Voigt’s explanation that he didn’t mean offence to President Barack Obama on the basis of apartheid in high office should have been considered.

People’s tendency to such comments is no secret. Even Obama’s comments on Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager shot to death by a neighbourhood watchman in February 2012, were seen by many Americans as biased in essence. The US, being a pluralist and egalitarian society, should have enough argumentative space for such wayward incidents and remarks, and the same be tolerated in good faith of freedom of speech. Singling out of such comments for punishment will fuel radicalism and fan racism.

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