Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Oldish Misery in the Vein of Stella's

Stella's misery regarding the Three Stooges reminds me of a similar episode in one of my summer classes. I share it mainly for the Humor.

I taught one of those intensive summer session classes that meets three hours a day, five days a week. Normally, I give the students (and myself) a break in the middle of these classes.

I'm white (that's important later). I had a number of African-American students in my class, several of whom had been in my Freshman Comp class either the semester directly before or two semesters earlier. All of them were athletes. Two of them, let's call them James and Madison, sat next to each other.

One class, James showed up, but not Madison. I noted this on my roster and we started class. We reached our break, and everyone scattered to the four winds (hat tip, Yaro). Per usual, I noticed James on the phone as soon as we reached our break. When we reconvened, I found Madison in James's seat.

Not only was Madison in James's seat, but he was dressed identically to James.

I stared at Madison as the class reassembled, wondering if James would reappear. Nope. No James. Only Madison.

Struck by a sudden inspiration, I said to Madison, "Hey, Madison, where's James?"
"Yo, Miz D," he responded, "I don't know. We were, ah, just splittin' the class up today." (Seriously, he said this.)
"Madison," I continued, "is this one of those you think that I think all black people look alike deals? Like...I wouldn't notice that you were Madison and not James?"

Silence.

Madison shakes his head slowly and says "Yeah, it occurred to us."

I pointed out that first of all, I didn't think all black people look alike..."Geez, man, I lived with a whole village full of black people and I could tell 'em apart!" and also that if I was going to mix up two students, black, white, or green, it probably wouldn't be the two that I'd ALREADY HAD FOR TWO SEMESTERS.

James and Madison were properly chastened and both attended class henceforth.

11 comments:

  1. Is it bad that I cannot for the life of me tell white boys with baseball caps apart?

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  2. Marcia, it is a sign of health and sobriety.

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  3. Oooh Marcia, I had that problem once, and it didn't help that I had three guys with the same name in the same class. One noticed that I kept not recognizing him and got all offended.

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  4. Only one color matters in modern society: green. Each student pays some in tuition and each athlete brings in some at the box office. Obviously, not a perfect system but at least everybody's motivations and incentives are clear.

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  5. The irony is that if they'd put half as much ingenuity and effort into studying as they did into their trickery, they probably wouldn't have had to take the same class three fragging times. Did you point this out to them as well?

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  6. E.M., I did not...as it was I think they were pretty mortified about getting called out on the whole racial stereotype issue.

    I have a hard time with blond white girls whose names end with "ee" ... Brittany, Katie, Kathy...

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  7. OMG. Can I have your permission to turn this tale into a cartoon someday? :)

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  8. I cannot tell blondes or sandy-brown-haired people apart. Well, i can tell the boys from the girls, usually. But within gender they're interchangeable. I can figure it out during the class but ten minutes after the semester ends it is gone, and I am left saying "uh, hi!" forever to whatever student it was said hello to me in the hall.

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  9. SF--Yes. Permission granted.

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  10. "They're all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same."

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  11. I can never tell stupid people apart...after a time, they all blend into one massive cornucopia of idiocy.

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