The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #119441   Message #2591689
Posted By: Azizi
18-Mar-09 - 08:51 AM
Thread Name: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
Thanks Kent for posting a link to my website.

I've been thinking about why I have a different opinion about the "appropriateness" of these "homophobic" verses and the appropriateness of what I call "teacher taunts" (children's/teen's rhymes that insult teachers and/or other school personel, often using very violent references).

Certainly some people consider teacher taunts to be very offensive. See for example the comment from LindaS 4/3/2007 on this Cocojams' page: Cocojams Jambalaya-Visitors' Comments & Questions:

"I've read through a few pages of your site, and as a teacher and a white woman, I find it highly offensive. I have taught for 36 years, and I never heard any children coming up with the nasty teacher taunts you have posted. You say you are against violence, yet you clearly post violent materials. You say these violent chants are done by whites and that is simply not true. It is no wonder there is trouble between the races when people like you promote hatred against whites AND education."

Here is part of my response to Linda S:

"Linda, I appreciate your comment. However, I vehemently deny that I am "promoting hatred against whites AND Education". Some of my best friends are White and/or work in education fields. Fwiw, I invite you to read my comments that preface this Cocojams' page. I fully speculation that these rhymes [teacher taunts] appear to me to be better known among White folks than Black folks...

I ended my comments to Linda S. by inviting her to read the comments about teacher taunts from [Mudcat member] Ragdall that are posted on that page. Here's a quote from those comments:

"We chanted them [teacher taunts] because they were humorous and a wee bit naughty. We chanted them because it made us "one of the group". No, we never meant the words."

Also see this comment on the subject of teacher taunts that was sent in by another Cocojams contributor, perhaps in response to Linda S's complaint:

"I am a white, 36 year old female born in Florida, raised in California. I have heard many of the rhymes listed through the years. Anyone who hasn't, has not paid much attention to kids in general. I always get annoyed by those offended by things such as this. Most youth are opposed to any authority. Our movies and music are full of that evidence. Does freedom of speech extend only to teachers and grown adults. It seems that once you enter the public school realm that freedom is left at the door. Make a profit by those rhymes then it is under the freedom of speech laws and called art by most. Quit taking everything so seriously and maybe some of the kids will too. These chants and rhymes date back decades and were taken with a grain of salt. I don't think that you can designate a gender or race that is at fault for these rhymes and chants just blame it on really immature children who have a distaste for any authority.
-Xina ; 4/30/2007;

I admit that there is a thin line between the offensiveness of teacher taunts and the offensiveness of homophobic rhymes. I post editorial comments cautioning the use of both of these types of rhymes on Cocojams pages where these examples are posted. Yet I think that there are crucial differences between the two types of rhymes.

It seems to me that most people who chant teacher taunts are teenagers and not younger children. I think that most of these teens recognize the implications of what they are saying and know that they don't mean these rhymes to be taken literally. I think that most people who chant teacher taunts do so to be "a wee bit naughty" and to show that they can challenge authority (albeit with little to no consequences, since these rhymes are usually not chanted in within the presence of teachers).

Furthermore, from comments about these rhymes that I have read online and comments that I have received via email*, I think that most teachers and other adults consider teacher taunts to be "rites of passage/flaunting authority" rhymes that kids have been saying for years, and which kids don't really mean. Admittedly, as a reaction to Columbine and other horrific school shootings, most schools have taken a hard no tolerance line against anyone chanting teacher taunts in school and on school premises.

In contrast to teacher taunts, I think that a number of these "homophobic verses" are chanted by younger children (ages 7-12 years) who don't understand the implications of what they are saying, and don't understand how "dissin'" Michael Jackson, and by extention, other people that folks think are gay or are effeminate, might be hurtful to those people (if not to Michael Jackson himself). I don't want children, teens, and adults in the future to still stigmatize people because of those people's sexual orientation. I don't think teachers are really stigmatized as a group, or they are certainly not stigmatized in the same way as people who are homosexuals are. People have been killed because someone took offense to them being homosexual, or fitting the stereotypes that society has for being homosexual. These are the differences I find between teacher taunts and "homophobic" verses.

I welcome further discussion in this thread on these comments.

*Aside from the rather mild rhyme "No more writing/no more books/no more teachers' dirty looks", I can't remember ever saying or hearing any teacher taunt. I have a number of family members who are teachers (in predominately African American schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Georgia). I've asked those family members about their recollections of any teacher taunts. None of these men and women could recall any from their childhood/teen years or from their students (most of whom are African Americans). One female African American high school teacher in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (an acquaintance and not a family member) who I talked with about this subject said that "Black kids don't need teacher taunts to challenge authority. They have rap music." I found that to be a rather intriguing statement.

Admittedly this is not a scientific sample. It's possible that teacher taunts are widely chanted among African Americans who attend predominately Black schools as well as African Americans who attend somewhat integrated or predominately White schools. I think this would be a good research project for some university graduate students.