FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – A controversial English assignment went viral on social media.
The assignment was presented as an African American language explainer, but when KSEE24 talked to the mom of the 11th grader involved, she said it sends a racially charged message.
Tahirah Lockett is the mother of an 11th grader at Roosevelt High School.
“My daughter said the school is racist,” she said. “She sends me a screenshot of the assignment, and I asked her, ‘So, are they saying that’s how we talk”?
Lockett was floored when she saw what her daughter was talking about during an upset call from her daughter.
“She is really good about brushing a lot of things off,” said Lockett. “But, this situation she took personal enough to call me.”
The assignment in question is a worksheet and grid labeled as a translation of African American language to traditional English.
The worksheet contained an example of a grammatically incorrect sentence that reads…”If she ain’t got manners enough to stop and let folks know how she been makin’ out, let her g’wan!”
The student is then assigned to “translate the grammatically incorrect sentence into a more familiar modern translation.
Lockett says the problem is the inaccuracy in characterizing the African American culture as a whole.
“Is completely unacceptable because you just characterize all African Americans as being pretty much ignorant and not knowing how to speak phonetically. ” Lockett said.
Fresno Unified School District offered a sincere apology to anyone who was offended by the assignment.
“This morning our staff received a complaint of cultural insensitivity regarding a worksheet being utilized in one of our high school classrooms. this worksheet on dialect is not part of the district’s adopted curriculum and we deeply apologize to our students, parents and community members that have been negatively impacted by this situation,” said Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson.
Lockett’s daughter says students in her class that were not Black were making fun of the assignment. And, that she likes her teacher, which made the assignment even more surprising.
Fresno Unified’s statement tries to further explain the rationale behind the assignment.
“For context, as part of state-approved curriculum our high school students read the American classic, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston written in 1937. The worksheet at issue included examples that were perceived as insensitive and culturally inappropriate.”
Lockett says the assignment was totally unnecessary and blames the school for characterizing a less than educated form of speech as that of the entire African American community.
Other members of the Fresno school board have not yet responded to requests for comments for this story.