Black teacher alleges she was called ‘Aunt Jemima’ and asked to translate ‘slave talk’

A black high school teacher is suing the Commack School District in New York State for years of alleged racial discrimination and harassment.

South Atlanta high school
(Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

A Black English teacher in a Long Island school district claims she endured years of racial discrimination at the workplace, which promoted a toxic “ whites only” environment. Now she’s seeking unspecified damages for the harassment she suffered from colleagues and students.

According to the New York Post, Andrea Bryan says that for 17 years, she’s been the only Black instructor for the Commack school district, and officials have long ignored her complaints and pleas for help. In a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Federal Court, Bryan alleges that the district fostered “an atmosphere of racial harassment and intimidation.”

She highlighted several incidents to support her allegations. For example, she claims that when she asked if food in a staff lounge was for everyone, a senior coworker responded, “for whites only.” The same teacher asked her, “Andrea, can you translate slave talk for me?” referring to a Black character in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” according to the lawsuit.

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Bryan said she “was ostracized and made a pariah within the department,” after she complained and the colleague was demoted, the report states.

She also alleges that her only present during a $50 Secret Santa gift exchange was a bottle of hand sanitizer, “presented … because she is black, and therefore, dirty in the view of her colleagues.”

Bryan’s suit describes how she was a regular contributor to the fund that pays for flowers, sympathy cards and gifts for staffers experiencing traumatic events, but she herself was completely ignored by her colleagues after being in a serious car accident in 2017.

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The lawsuit also mentions how the torch of white supremacy was passed on to the students with one allegedly asking her, “Do you remember Aunt Jemima?” This led to other kids shouting “There goes Aunt Jemima!” and “Do you have any maple syrup?” in the cafeteria.

Bryan claims the district ignored her repeated requests to remove the student from her class.

She also noted that as a senior teacher, she was not allowed to have her own regular classroom, yet many junior white teachers were given one.

In her suit, Bryan’s seeking unspecified damages.