“What that nigga want God? Word up, look out for the cops…Word up, two for fives over here baby. Word up, two for fives them niggas got garbage down the way, word up.”
—-Lyrics in “Cash Rules Everything Around Me,” performed by Wu-Tang Clan ,in one of two rap videos that formed the basis of an economics class taught by Deyate Hagood, a social studies teacher at A-TECH High School.
For the uneducated, “Two for fives” is a 90s’ term for crack cocaine sales, meaning “two vials for five dollars.”
When a Queens mom working at home heard this and another equally vulgar rap video taking up the bulk of her son’s Zoom economics class on “money, power and respect,” she snapped. The woman, whose name is being withheld because she fears retribution against her or her son, grabbed her son’s laptop and shouted at Deyate Hagood, the social studies teacher at A-TECH High School in Williamsburg, saying…
“You honestly ought to be motherfucking embarrassed. Disgusting! You have rap videos using N-words, talking about whores and bitches and selling drugs. I’m working from home, and this is what I’m hearing my kid in his senior year learning in class?”
Indeed it was. “I’ve had to watch my high-school senior spend an entire year at home in isolation while receiving a very limited education,” said the Queens mother, an executive assistant with a younger son in middle school. She told the New York Post that her 12th-grader did not have a book or syllabus for the economics class. Her son reported that Hagood usually showed videos. In the second rap video played that day in Hagood’s class, a prostitute in black lingerie “sings,” “First you get the money. Then you get the muthafuckin’, power. After you get the fuckin’ power muthafuckas will respect you.”
To be fair, the recorded Zoom session shows Hagood attempting to spark a class discussion out of such relevant literature. “Are they saying money gives you some sort of status? Do you think people who have money have power, too? Is that something we can say?” he asked the class. “Someone? Anyone? You’re supposed to be my smart class…What are they trying to say in the video?’
One student answered, “I don’t know, you got to be a drug dealer to have money, power and respect.” The teacher responded, “Just that? Is that a beneficial way to live our lives, though?”
The angry mother, who posted a video of the class on Facebook, said,
“I’m really angry and sad for the kids. I hate that I can’t trust what is being shown and taught, and that my kids have lost so much learning….Who is actually accountable for what these children are being taught? Is anyone watching and documenting what lessons are being given and by whom?…I don’t think it matters what color you are. This is a classroom, albeit virtual, and you should be teaching something valuable. These kids are supposed to be preparing for college, and this isn’t helpful to them.”
- How many parents are watching their children’s Zoom classes?
- If they did, how many would see equally infuriating presentations?
- How similar is this class to what the in-person classes were like?
- If professors and journalists are fired for speaking the work “nigger” or its variants in discussions of the word, how is it that a high school teacher can play a video using the same word multiple times as a racial epithet without sanctions? That question wasn’t even raised in the Post story. Is it because the teacher is black? Or is their a rule that as long as someone doesn’t actually speak the taboo word, but just uses a recording of someone else saying it, that’s acceptable?
- Speaking of acceptable, is this an acceptable defense of the class by New York Department of Education spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon: “Two iconic songs were used as part of a 12th-grade lesson about economics, and the teacher provided appropriate context prior to streaming them”?
Oh! The songs are iconic! That changes everything! Actually, it raises more questions, like whether New York educators know what “iconic” means. What would be “appropriate context” for using those songs in an “economics” class?