Opinion

Use of “negro” in Broward school form disrespectful

Several weeks ago, a heated controversy over the use of the word “negro” occurred in Broward County.  The Broward School District distributed code of conduct books to students with a form using the racial term “negro” as a description for “black” and “African American.”  The form was intended to collect data for a federal study to track changing demographics and allocate school funding, but instead it ignited a fiery response.

According to various articles in the Miami Herald, parents and students alike found the use of “negro” to be inappropriate and outdated.  Strong responses led to Broward County Public Schools to issue a new form and formal apology.

The Broward School Distract was wrong in including the term on an official form. Since they are an authority in the community, it might lead others to believe using the word is acceptable. It is not. The school district should have foreseen this possibility and its potential precedent-setting consequences.

The word “negro” should only be used in a historical context, which the school district should have known. The term hearkens back to a time when “negro” was used in an extremely disrespectful manner. The years leading up to the Civil Rights Movement were filled with unpleasant and difficult memories. Unlike the term “black,” it has not been reclaimed or celebrated; it is just disrespectful and inappropriate.

Furthermore, the form calls into question what race has to do with funding allocations in the first place. Why does the federal government need to know the color of students’ skin to decide how much funding their school receives?  Shouldn’t this decision be based on the economics of the community and whether the schools in question need help monetarily?  There are many ways to measure this, and race is not one of them.

Even though the Broward County Public Schools retracted the initial form and has apologized for the incident, it should not have happened. The use of the word “negro” to describe someone of African American descent is wrong and disrespectful.

September 14, 2009

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