by Rebecca Bynum
Political correctness is difficult to navigate for even the most seasoned bureaucratic adults, let alone children, whose sense of fairness is often confused by what can and cannot be said, by whom, to whom and when. Children reading American texts from the 19th or early 20th centuries will find the word Negro and its variations used in abundance. This word was banished along with the term “colored” during the 1960’s civil rights movement when the term “black” replaced those earlier terms. About 20 years later, black was replaced by the term “African American,” but, and here comes the confusing part for children, African Americans themselves use variations of the word Negro to refer to themselves constantly in music and entertainment. Children, whose natural tendency to imitate popular songs and memorize their lyrics become, quite rightly, confused as to what is proper. And of course, the thrill of using a “naughty word” is an allure in itself, as any parent knows.
Such was the case when youngsters at a Christian school in Orlando, The First Academy, experimented with using the dreaded “n-word” in a social media forum which was picked up and sensationalized by the professional grievance monger, Shaun King in New York, who took to Twitter to denounce the school, the city, the south and the entire country as racist, but his main fire, naturally, was aimed squarely at the school. He immediately began publishing sensational letters he claimed to have received from former students which portrayed the school as a veritable den of racial and religious bigotry homophobia and sexual abuse. Were these letters vetted, checked, anything? It’s doubtful.
Subsequently, the head First Academy dutifully put out a statement in lieu of sackcloth and ashes, a mea culpa hitting all the usual notes, “deeply grieved,” “taking appropriate steps” and promising to “learn from this incident and continue to bolster our commitment to racial reconciliation.”
Normally this would have been the end of it. The perpetually aggrieved Mr. King has already moved on to stoke racial tensions elsewhere, but the parents and former pupils have been left with the feeling that all this was terribly unfair to the school. The First Academy’s reputation has been deeply marred by the excesses of this Black Lives Matter activist in a distant city, whose irresponsible “journalism” has undoubtedly led to lower enrolment and decreased donations for the small Christian school. Rather than let Mr. King’s venom be the last word about The First Academy, an African American father writes:
The afternoon my boys told me what was being spread by a reporter in New York, I was appalled. The back lash of hate filled messages that ensued was written by those who had been misinformed. I have three boys enrolled in the First Academy who are all bi-racial. They have never experienced any type of racial discrimination there. The one thing I can attest to at The First Academy, is the love, care, and inclusion you feel from the students and administration. If this reporter was looking for truth, he should have interviewed multiple families, especially families of color. One immature tweet sent by a student on summer break being his single proof, attests only to the inaccuracy of his accusations.
-- Jay and Tammy Adams
A Lebanese American parent writes:
We have been at TFA since 1995 and have two graduates and a current junior. From day one we were embraced, and never once experienced racial issues! Our family has been enriched by our children's friends and parents who have become our extended family! There is no better academic or social environment I could have wished for my children.
TFA teaches the belief that Christ sees your heart not your color!
-- Tom Harb
An African American First Academy board member writes:
When I first arrived at TFA it was apparent to me that the vision for this school was to be a place that loved all people, without regard to skin color. I saw a school that made a conscious effort to welcome my family and was committed to insuring no impediments would prevent me or my children from achieving. Both my wife and I have volunteered our time to support TFA and its cause, in fact I accepted the opportunity to serve on TFA's board. It is a more beautiful TFA campus when we notice how God has brought together so many wonderful people, from all over the world, coming from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. TFA’s diversity respects our Lord and Saviors’ commandments and makes our campus a better and richer place.
As parents, we should monitor the music our children expose themselves to and we must be ever aware about the pitfalls associated with social media interactions.
-- Bishop Allen Wiggins
An Indian American former student writes:
I had the pleasure of attending TFA from 1st through 12th grade and as an Indian American I can say that my experience at TFA was always positive. To this day, my closest friends are the friends I made at TFA and the faith-based teachings I learned at TFA have helped make me into the man I am today.
-- Shamir Patel
A Jordanian parent writes:
As members of a minority group ourselves, the least I would say about how all TFA staff and students treated our two children is: love, appreciation, kindness and respect. I never wished a safer or better school environment for my children. Since we came from Jordan a few years ago, TFA welcomed us and made us feel as part of their extended family.
-- Ramzi Abbad
Can these voices balance the previous hysteria stoked by Shaun King? I don’t know, but in the interest of fairness to this beleaguered Christian academy, we feel it would be irresponsible not to publish them. May The First Academy long continue its educational and spiritual mission.