In an attempt to teach Trigonometry, a teacher performed a racist stunt that has led to much discourse online.
Content Warning: Descriptions of racist depictions of Indigenous cultures
A white teacher from the Riverside Unified School District in California was placed on leave last week after a video of her mocking Indigenous cultures went viral online. The video, posted by Indigenous business owner Akalei Brown, displayed the teacher wearing a headdress made of feathers, dancing around the room, jumping on tables, screaming, and screeching "SohCahToa" while doing what is supposed to resemble a "tomahawk chop." In a statement, the school district asserted that the educator's behavior was unacceptable and offensive. The district also promised that the incident would be addressed at the earliest. The video has sparked massive backlash online, where social media users called for greater sensitivity in the classroom, CBS News reports.
Brown said that she received the video from an Indigenous student who filmed the incident while in the teacher's class. The student informed her that he "felt that violence was being committed against him and he had the right to record." While the teacher was performing the racist stunt, she projected drawings of stick figures with headdresses, rocks, and teepees on the classroom's smartboard. "Water goddess, again I ask you, please tell me the secret Indian chant," she says in the video. "Because obviously, this is ridiculous." In addition to this, she passes comments about a "rock god," who she claims "spit out" several rocks she utilized in her demonstration. She states, "The rock god did this. Thank you, rock god."
i’m just thinking about how in high school, my math teacher didn’t need to be racist to get us to remember sohcahtoa. he quite literally just said “sohcahtoa, baby!” every time and it worked— hauntie 👻 (she/her) (@AatHairka) October 21, 2021
In response, the Riverside Unified School District released a statement condemning the teacher's actions. The district affirmed, "[The teacher's] behaviors are completely unacceptable and an offensive depiction of the vast and expansive Native American cultures and practices." The district's superintendent Renee Hill added, "Her words and actions, done during class time, were highly insulting and marginalizing to Native American and Indigenous cultures, among others. This has our full attention and it will be addressed expeditiously." The teacher has since been placed on leave while the school district investigates the incident.
All that to teach a class SohCahToa? SohCahToa is like the only thing I remember from HS, and the teacher didn’t disrespect or mock our indigenous ancestors to get me to remember it.— Josh (@imjoshphoto) October 21, 2021
John Wesley North High School, where the teacher is employed, also released a statement regarding her actions. "Her actions were marginalizing, especially to Native Americans," they wrote, posting a photo of the district's statement on Instagram. "This behavior is not condoned or tolerated... It goes against our core values and beliefs and values of equity and well-being." Meanwhile, Brown, who is acting as a spokesperson for the student's family, shared a video from a board meeting held by the school district. In it, a young Indigenous girl confronts board members about the video. She states, "When I saw that video of her, I just thought that I just was going to explode. She's racist and that just makes me so mad. Me and my people, we don't have our rights still... I always feel so sad. I don't like how people are treating us. They treat us bad, they bully us."
i hope the racist sohcahtoa teacher thing further dispels the notion that STEM somehow exists in some magical isolated "objective" bubble and doesn't have to reckon with things like colonization & racism— 💀 jon of the dead 💀 (@jonmbn_) October 21, 2021
Brown serves as a Native history and culture consultant. "We need to end abuse and discrimination against indigenous youth in schools," she affirmed. "There is no excuse for this type of behavior. We’re not in the 1960s anymore, [the teacher] should know better." Popular Indigenous TikToker Lance Tsosie also took note of the video. Sharing it on their account, they said, "This behavior is not a good representation for your school." They urged followers to contact the school and hold the teacher accountable, in addition to enforcing mandatory diversity and equity training for teachers.
Hi! There is a video going around of a teacher presenting SohCahToa to her Riverside, CA class in a very racist way. Instead of showing that video, let’s amplify Indigenous & Black math educators, who can teach in a culturally informed manner.— Lydia Jennings, Ph.D. (@1NativeSoilNerd) October 21, 2021
I’ll start: @LoboWithACause