When 13-year-old Jada Williams was given a copy of Frederick Douglass’ book “The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass,” she was inspired. So inspired that she decided to write an essay that drew a parallel between the abhorrent illiteracy in city schools and slavery. And she took aim at her teachers.
But that, apparently, is where she went wrong. The teacher took exception to the essay — which was supposed to be for a contest but was never submitted — and even confronted her. And according to her mother, that started a chain of hostility by the school — located in Rochester, NY — which eventually forced the mother to remove Jada from the school.
“My advice to my peers, people of color, and my generation, start making these white teachers accountable for instructing you,” Jada wrote. “They tooled this profession, they brag about their credentials, they brag about their tenure, so if you have so much experience then find a more productive way to teach the so called ‘unteachable.’”
On Wednesday, Jada and her mother, Karla, joined Glenn Beck on GBTV to discuss those words and the incident. It was an emotional interview that covered Jada’s original intent, the school’s reaction, and even her thoughts on what she’s learned.
You may be wondering what young Jada meant by singling out “white teachers.” That’s exactly the question Beck was wondering, and one that sparked debate among his staff. Jada’s response?
She was simply using the language of Frederick Douglass’ book, published in the 1800s.
“I feel misunderstood, because most grownups are making it a racial issue, when it’s a learning issue,” a tearful Jada said later. “I also feel hurt, because I’m not in school right now. They’re taking from me the one thing that I do love, and I feel confused because I thought I lived in a country of freedom of speech.”
“I know this is absolutely not about racism, it’s about the education of our children, and that’s what needs to be the focus,” Jada’s mother added, later saying “if that’s all it’s about [color] then how far will we ever get?”
Beck agreed with Jada’s remarks on freedom of speech.
“Jada, I’ve been talking about this this week, about freedom of speech, and they’re trying to get people to sit down and be afraid,” Beck said. “If there’s one thing you should get from Frederick Douglass is, her’s a man that refused to be a slave.”
“Don’t you let them bully you, and don’t you give up on the promise of America,” Beck concluded later. “It is always just over the horizon, but it requires each of us to reach for it.”
You can watch the emotional interview below:
In the end, Jada’s essay did make it into the essay contest for the Frederick Douglass Foundation, and they recognized her essay with an award. As for the school Rochester School District Interim Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas acknowledged Wednesday to local media that Williams’ teacher didn’t encourage the free-flow of ideas.
“Of course that’s not the best way to handle a situation like this,” he said. And while he didn’t address specific disciplinary action, he did say, “Suffice it to say I am addressing the situation.”
For more on the interview, including other quotes, visit Glennbeck.com.