March 19th, 2012
06:24 PM ET

Mother says teacher told son to read 'blacker'

Nicole Cober Page, the mother of Jordan Shumate, a ninth-grade student at George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Virginia, lists up to four occasions when her son was "singled out because of his race to educate the class about black issues."

According to his mother, this included most recently being asked to read aloud the Langston Hughes poem “Ballad of the Landlord” in a "blacker" voice. Page says that when her son did not comply, the teacher read the poem herself in what classmates described as a "slave-like" manner.

Page says that Jordan was also once asked to rap the lyrics of a Tupac Shakur hip-hop song and on another occasion he was asked to explain why black people like grape soda.

In spite of these instances, "Jordan is proud to go to Marshall. It's a wonderful school, but even in the best places some bad things happen," Page explains.

Jon Torre, a Fairfax public school spokesperson, provided CNN with a statement saying that "Marshall High School administrators are taking these allegations seriously and school officials are vigorously pursuing an investigation of these incidents. The school launched the investigation on Wednesday immediately after the student's mother made them aware of her concerns."

soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Happy Berries

    Dave Chappelle is the one who coined the grape soda stereotype. Just saying.

    April 16, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. maggie

    "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony –I'd like to hold it in my arms and keep it company"
    I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company" I remember how hard people fought in order that we didn't think twice about the color of skin, but the content of a man or woman's character. Don't make a mockery of so many people's efforts. We all can learn something about dignity, respect and kindness. Being funny at someone else's expense is a reflection of lack of moral character. Yet, it's not too late to change and grow have a Coke with someone of character.

    April 13, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. eric

    who doesn't like grape soda?

    April 12, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • theob069

      really, who doesn't like grape soda, Skittles and ice tea...

      April 16, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Clyde M

    I could buy the read the poem bits. And with some straining the rapping bit. But the grape soda charge? That seems to blatantly insane to be anything but made up.

    Seriously, I'd want to hear the context for these things, but I doubt you could provide a context that made "tell us why black people like grape soda" acceptable in any way. If a teacher really did do this, it seems like a sensitivity training issue at the LEAST, and a potentially fireable offense most like.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Walter

    Some of the complaints here sound legitimate and troubling. That said, if you've ever read Langston Hughes' poem, Ballad of the Landlord," it's written in dialect when the African-American tenant is speaking. The balance of the poem is in "standard English."

    I don't know what a "slave-like manner" would sound like, but here's an example of the tenant's words from the poem:

    "Um-huh! You talking high and mighty.
    Talk on-till you get through.
    You ain't gonna be able to say a word
    If I land my fist on you."

    How would you read those words, and wasn't this poem written for dramatic effect?

    April 7, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. richellelj

    Being so close to the nation's capital, Fairfax County Public Schools are among the most diverse demographically of any school system in the country. My daughter by first grade had classmates that were Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, black, white, and every shade in between. I find this story VERY difficult to digest having had first hand experience with this school system.

    April 7, 2012 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
    • William

      We lived in Woodbridge and i worked in DC. Our daughters school was the same way, very mixed. Her school had very fair minded and strict staff. Very professional.

      April 7, 2012 at 7:32 am | Report abuse |
  7. NY'er

    If someone asked me to read something in an Italian-NY style accent, I would do so with a smile! it's who I am, and I'm proud of it.....but I'm sure money is to be made on this issue, so let's bet on how many 0's will end up on the check.

    April 4, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Rose

      it's not really the same thing. i went to a private high school and was often the "spokesperson" for black america. even though i didn't mind that, someone telling me to speak "more black" is insulting. is that saying speak like a slave with broken-english and sound ignorant? i was made fun of in middle school by the black kids all the time for "sounding white." it was pretty frustrating. (i don't think it's a newsworthy situation, it happens all across america every day). we all have to realize that ignorance is bliss whatever race the offender might be.

      April 4, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • elisabethinca

      And you are exactly the reason racism exists in America. It isn't the same thing at all. Talking about your culture is one thing, but asking someone to "talk blacker" is racist, ugly, and shouldn't be anywhere especially in school. This isn't about money and people like you are garbage.

      April 4, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • William

      How many movies have i seen over the years where blacks ridicule whites, their culture and the way they talk. Its a staple of black comedy.

      April 7, 2012 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. K3citizen

    I like grape soda and I'm white.

    April 4, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • William

      What? I thought all whites ate caviar and drank Dom.

      April 7, 2012 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jonathan in Jakarta

    Sad. just sad

    April 4, 2012 at 3:02 am | Report abuse |
    • DSBsky

      yea, ALMOST as sad as that white kid, that got set on fire, by two blacks, because the black teacher told him "you don't know about it, your not OUR race"....Yea.. THAT'S sad too.... Pathetic..

      April 4, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
      • K3citizen

        What's sad is that hanging and burning black men was a national sport in racist America. That white kid shouldn't have been wearing a hoodie if he didn't want to get burnt.

        April 4, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
      • William

        National sport? Maybe in the Dem south 45 years ago. Liberals love to forget it was Republicans who came South and educated blacks and signed them up to vote. But today the crime statistics show vastly more crime committed by blacks against whites.

        April 7, 2012 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
  10. leila

    "....up to four occasions when her son was 'singled out because of his race to educate the class about black issues.'"

    I I can recall one year when a student was angry because "white people should not be teaching about black issues." Our school incorporates African-American literature: the Harlem Renaissance and Post WWII literature. If we did NOT incorporate this essential literature, we would be called prejudice...on the other hand, when we do teach the literature, we can not do it properly enough for the public. The above mentioned teacher should NOT have singled the child out. What with all the teacher in-services we do throughout the years, I am surprised that we have never had one on how to teach literature of other cultures.

    March 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. liveevil

    this is very sad... a teacher putting him on the spot and asking him to do this??? i know that if a black tacher asked a white student " hey why are white people so bad at basketball" there would be an uproar to the highest extent... i just dont understand. and my comment about basketball is the same as the grape soda in that there are white people who are very good at basketball and there are black people who dislike grape soda...

    March 22, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • L

      Corporal 'Radar' O'Reilly and his grape Ne-Hi soda

      April 3, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
      • William


        April 7, 2012 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jorge

    This should be a frightening red flag to remind all of us how performance/behavior standards for public educators have been sliding down a slippery slope in this country. The U.S. is now rated # 35 for primary education worldwide, social ignorance and pedagogical apathy are becoming iconic. Do our children deserve this?

    March 21, 2012 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      Increase teacher pay to incentivize top candidates joining the profession. Increase it a LOT.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
      • Lulu

        I wish people would stop complaining about how little teachers get paid. They get tons of benefits, are protected by aggressive unions, get summers off, have family friendly hours, and are actually not paid so poorly compared to many many other careers. If you decide to go through the process of becoming a teacher, then given all of these great perks, you should be willing to do some extra work and make sure you are well educated enough to teach our kids properly!! It's called being proud and proactive about your career. How many people (myself included even though I have a master's degree) would be grateful for ANY job right now, let alone one with so many perks? Teachers should stop complaining and just work a little harder...

        April 7, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  13. Max46

    Grape soda ? Ha, I never heard that before. I know that blacks like the Obama kool-aid, but grape ? I dunno.

    March 20, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just!ne

      Please stop trolling Obama. Not all Blacks agree with 100% of his policies and beliefs to get this country back on track. Why don't YOU stop drinking so much hater-ade.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
      • William

        Maybe the don't, but 100% will vote for him anyway simply because the black part of his heritage is pushed. We have already seen for years what blacks and their leaders and Liberals in general say about black Conservatives and women.

        April 7, 2012 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
  14. wil

    When the robes and hoods are nice and white make your way down to SC. I hate ghost and other do to. We will have a good time making them disappear.

    March 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. 60sal


    March 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  16. wizard

    If the shoe fits, wear it!

    March 19, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alysandir

      Thank you for your important contribution. Now, can you tell us all just how you get your robes and hood so sparkling white?

      March 20, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
      • Just!ne


        March 22, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
      • William

        Ancient Chinese Secret.
        Oh wait, that's racist now.

        April 7, 2012 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |