There’s something wrong with the teachers at my school. They’ve turned into intrusion-zombies, compelled to intervene in everything we do. It seems they can’t help themselves, as if micro-managing us has become their reason for living.
One fateful day I jokingly said that only people without Afro hairstyles could be in our gang, which was an indirect jibe at a friend of mine who does have an Afro. Not a very clever remark, not funny, and the words were hardly out of my mouth before I regretted them. My friend was annoyed, but when I was quick to apologise, he accepted my apology and we carried on queuing for lunch as normal. After all, it was only a throwaway remark about hairstyles. But that’s not how the teachers saw it.
One teacher witnessed it and immediately her moral alarm went on to red alert. She rushed to tell the deputy head. He was shocked and dumbfounded. Why? I was being racist, apparently! My silly remark amounted to an outbreak of racism in the school! Meanwhile, we boys were getting on with our lives, oblivious to the panic inside the deputy head’s room.
We were settling down to science when the deputy head came knocking and marched me back to his office with him. He told me in complete seriousness that it was wrong to criticise Afros as black people had Afros, going on to imply that Afros belonged exclusively to black people, completely ignoring the fact that the teacher who told him what I’d said herself sports a frizzy, Afro-style hairdo. And she’s white.
The telling off went on non-stop for about half an hour. I was told I was skating on thin ice. I was asked how my parents would feel if they found out about it (as it happens, they were slightly annoyed about my remarks; much more displeased with the school’s reaction). After half an hour, I was free to go. But it didn’t end there. In the weeks that followed, all of my teachers clearly knew about it and many of them felt entitled or even obliged to make some kind of offhand reference to my supposedly racist remark. My friend and I would have forgotten it almost immediately, but they seemed determined not to let it go.