Teacher suspended without pay for playing Macklemore song
UPDATES 11/30 with Macklemore’s response
A performing arts teacher has been suspended without pay for playing a Macklemore song during class.
The Detroit-area middle school teacher allowed a student in her eighth grade performing arts class to play the song “Same Love” which was written in support of same sex marriage.
Seattle rapper Ben Haggerty, known as Macklemore, tackles the dangers of hate and stereotypes by showing the struggle of a homosexual man from birth to death. He even talks about his own struggle wondering if he was homosexual because he had two uncles who were gay and he “kept his room straight.”
Susan Johnson hadn’t heard the song before the student played it. She did ask him if the song had any profane lyrics. He said no, so she allowed it.
A student in the class was offended by the lyrics and complained to the school principal. Before the school day ended, Johnson claims the principal and assistant superintendent told her she was suspended indefinitely without pay.
“I don’t think that it was really even thought through,” she told a Detroit TV station “I was paralyzed. I really didn’t understand why I was being suspended.”
Assistant Superintendent Melissa Baker didn’t care to elaborate.
During a closed door meeting, Johnson found out she would be suspended a total of three days, not paid for two.
The district claims the song had controversial content described as “homosexuality, religion, politics views and a sexual slur.”
“I’m very disappointed in the bias, the bigotry that I feel that they’re really hiding behind,” Johnson says.
The ACLU and LGBT support groups are getting involved in an effort to defend the teacher.
On his website, Macklemore posted this response:
I believe that Ms. Johnson getting suspended is completely out of line and unjust. However, I think it’s important for moments like these to be exposed and for us to pay attention and respond. This level of intolerance and fear is still very active in America, but at times is not completely visible. This incident is just one of tens of thousands that have happened across the country where schools have exposed a latent homophobia, preventing safe space for all young people to feel confident in being themselves. It’s clear that Ms. Johnson felt bullying and “gay bashing” were issues that needed to be addressed, and by doing so, was punished.
I wrote the song “Same Love,” not with the expectation that it would cure homophobia and lead to marriage equality across the US (although that’d be awesome). It was written with the hope that it would facilitate dialogue and through those conversations understanding and empathy would emerge. This incident demonstrates how too often we are quick to silence conversations that must be had. Even if people disagree, there is far more potential for progress when people are vocal and honestly expressing their thoughts about gay rights. When we are silent and avoid the issue, fear and hatred have a far greater life span.
It’s discouraging that a song about love and civil rights has led to a teacher getting suspended from her job. But that’s where we are at. For those of us who get a pit in our stomach when reading a story like this, it just makes it abundantly clear there is far more work to be done.
By LINDA THOMAS