TheGrio Daily

The Big Mad Mailbag

Episode 35

“We don’t want dumb white kids either.” Michael Harriot gets a lot of angry e-mails from white people who are big mad about something he said. So today, Michael Harriot decided to reach into his mailbag and respond to one of them Big Mad listeners who was mad about his take on the Minneapolis Teachers Strike. theGrio Daily is an original podcast by theGrio Black Podcast Network. #BlackCultureAmplified

You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] I don’t know if you guys know this, but I can sometimes be a little controversial. I mean, it’s like some of the things I say can rub people the wrong way. It make white people what I call big mad. Instead of ignoring those people, we embrace them. Not only do we embrace them, but every so often we reply to their letters, their DMs and their tweets, and it’s Wypipo Wednesday on theGrio Daily, the only podcast that responds when white people are mad with The Big Mad Mailbag. I’m Michael Harryiot, a world famous wypipologist and this is theGrio Daily. Today, we’re going to respond to the people who send us DMs, emails, tweets and all that stuff, complaining about an article I wrote concerning Minneapolis’s agreement with its teachers union that outraged conservative media and, you know, white people in general. So, first of all, I got to break down what happened. So in March, like way back in March, white people just finding out and getting mad. But this happened way back in March. The teachers in Minneapolis went on strike and they went on strike for a number of reasons low pay. The teachers union was arguing with the school districts about cutting jobs and the school district basically didn’t have enough money. And the reason they didn’t have enough money is because white people are leaving Minneapolis and their school districts. And so the school district, because school districts are funded per student. In other words, if a school district gets $20,000 per student, the more students they have, the more teachers they can pay because the more money they get from the state, local and federal government. 

Michael Harriot [00:02:09] Well, because they have one of the biggest decline in enrollments in the country, I think it’s the third biggest. Their base that they pay the teachers from has been steadily declining. Right. So they figured like we got fewer students, so we need less teachers. That’s one of the way we can resolve our budget issue. That wouldn’t alone resolve the budget issue because they are like $86 million in debt and they were expected or projected to become insolvent like by the year 2024. But then when the COVID crisis happened, the federal government gave them a bunch of money and the teachers were like, Oh yeah, now this is going to solve all our money problems. And the school district was like, nah we’ve got to use this money to kind of pay the people we owe. We got to use it to solve our deficit. It was a big hullabaloo. Teachers went on strike for three weeks and to solve the teacher strike, the school district and the teacher’s union agreed to a new contract. And part of that contract says that they were going to agree to fire some teachers. 

Michael Harriot [00:03:23] But the contract specifically protected teachers who were underrepresented in the community, teachers who attended HBCU’s or Native American colleges or majority Hispanic colleges, or teachers who had traditionally been underserved in the school district. And that’s the important part, because for years, even the Minneapolis Public School District admits that, oh, yeah, like we just don’t hire Black teachers in the past. Right? So they say, yeah, we know this is a problem. We’re going to find a way to correct it. And one of the ways we’re going to correct it is through this contract. And they weren’t trying to, like, make up for their past sins because the students in the Minneapolis school district is like 37% white, like 34% Black and then, you know, it’s like 20 something percent Hispanic and then everybody else. But the teachers are like 68% white. That’s how much they just didn’t hire Black teachers in the whole state of Minneapolis, Minnesota teachers are like 90% white. So they said, we’re going to, you know, address this problem by protecting these teachers of color. Now, what conservative media did is cast this as a fire white teachers first. Act, right? 

Fox News [00:05:05] Essentially, white teachers would be laid off first under this contract, regardless of seniority. Does that seem fair? 

Michael Harriot [00:05:15] That’s what they said the contract entailed, like they were just going to fire the white teachers first, when in reality, you protected the people who had been underserved, who had been discriminated against in the past. Because if you don’t fire the white teachers first and just go by seniority or tenure, then what will happen? Well, you know, in the past, they just hired white teachers. So all of the white teachers would have, you know, their tenure and they would keep their jobs and then the school district would revert back to a almost all white teacher, school district. Everybody and the teachers union agreed with this. It was conservative media again. Three months after disagreement took place that stirred up all this outrage because they were going to fire white teachers. So I wrote about it. I explained what I just explained to you in a condensed version. I wrote about this. And I said, It’s a good thing because you can’t make up for inequity by just, you know, going forward and doing the right thing. You have to correct the inequity. And the only way to do this is by taking something from the people who have been privileged to benefit from those  unequal laws or that unequal hiring practice. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:43] Like so here’s an example I used. So imagine if you and ten friends invested in this fund, right? And one day you realize, oh, only nine of the people were receiving dividends. And a 10th person, he just wasn’t getting his money. And what they were doing is splitting the profits with nine people. Right. That’s basically what they were doing in Minneapolis, because the Black students weren’t getting the education that their parent’s tax dollars paid for. Now, this is important because that money doesn’t rain out of the sky. Those are taxpayer dollars. Black taxpayer dollars. Whose money is going to fund education for white students. Why do I say education for white students? Because there’s numerous studies that show that Black students achieve better test scores. They are discipline less. They have more emotional support when they have Black teachers. But in Minneapolis, this wasn’t true because the all the teachers were white. So, again, I wrote about this. And we got a onslaught of letters. And we’ve got to go through some of them and respond to some of the white people who were big mad. 

Big Mad White Guy 1 [00:08:14] You are a f*cking idiot. Bye. 

Michael Harriot [00:08:17] Yeah. Bye. I guess that’s the only way to respond to that one. The second one. 

Big Mad White Woman [00:08:22] Good day. Thank you for writing about this. It just confirms how racist and hateful white people are. We need to gather all the white people up and put them in camps so they can’t be racist anymore. Please keep up the great work so that we can keep the white people from suppress everyone. Have a great day. 

Michael Harriot [00:08:42] They said from suppress everyone. But one thing I’ve learned throughout my career is that like really racist white people who write letters, they have bad grammar, and then they end the letter with have a great day. 

Big Mad White Guy 2 [00:08:54] There are too many Blacks in prison in the name of equity. Let’s start killing the Blacks in prison until there are equal numbers to white prisoners. This is your logic about teachers. 

Michael Harriot [00:09:07] I don’t know how to respond to that, but I’ll respond to them collectively. So again, these people read conservative media and think that they are going to fire the white teachers instead of protecting the Black teachers from the inequality of the past. Right. Because if you don’t do that, if you don’t do it this way, then what you’re doing is perpetuating the past discriminatory laws and the way you are hiring teachers. Right. Because if we don’t protect the Black teachers, what you will have is a fire Black teachers first. And not only will you have a fire, Black teachers first policy, you will discriminate against the children by giving them an unequal education because all those Black students were getting an unequal education. 90% of the Black children in the Minneapolis schools read below their grade level. 80% of the nonwhite students didn’t achieve on their grade level in either English or math. So the Black kids, the nonwhite kids weren’t getting an equal education because of the way the district hired, because of the way the district spent their parents money. What the district was essentially doing was taking their parents money and using it to fuel white people’s generational wealth. Because we all know that education is one of the largest factors in generational wealth. It’s one of the largest factors in whether someone enters the criminal justice system or not. It’s one of the largest factors in the pay inequality or the wage gap in America. And so if you continue the policy that you started years ago, you disadvantaged those Black kids. 

Michael Harriot [00:11:09] The only way that white people would allow Black people to have an equal education was to allow them to learn alongside white children. So Black people never fought to go to school with white people. They never fought for white teachers. What they were fighting for is an equal distribution of resources because we knew that white people would never distribute the resources equally if schools are majority Black. How do I know that? Because it’s still an equal. Majority Black schools are still underfunded, on average by an average of $2,666 per student. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s in a poor neighborhood. Matter of fact, the richest, wealthiest Black neighborhoods are still receiving less funding than the poorest white neighborhoods. So separate but equal will never work. But white people, were not mad at integration, they were mad because segregation would not continue. They didn’t want us to have the equal opportunity that their students had. We’re not saying that they should make the schools disproportionately Black. All we are saying is the staff of the schools should reflect the student body. Which would mean an equitable education for all the students. But that’s why we’re here. That’s why this podcast exists. To explain these issues to white people. To explain that we don’t want to take anything from you. We don’t want to rob white people. We don’t want dumb white kids either. We just want the equal access to opportunity. That and this is the important part that we pay for. And if you agree with that, continue to watch this podcast. Continue to download theGrio app. Subscribe. Watch us on YouTube. Listen on your favorite platform and tell a friend. And as always, we’re going to leave you with one of our favorite Black sayings. 

Michael Harriot [00:13:37] “It takes a village to raise a child. But always remember, there was only one Black person in the Village People.” We’ll see you next time on the Creole Daily. Thank you for listening to theGriot Daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app. Subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at 

[00:14:05] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:10] You’re watching the Blackest Questions podcast with Christina Greer. In this podcast we ask our guests five of the Blackest questions so we can learn a little bit more about them and have some fun while we’re doing it. 

Guest 1 [00:14:22] Okay, so this is a trick question. 

Michael Harriot [00:14:24] We’re also going to learn a lot about Black history, past and present. 

Guest 2 [00:14:27] Beautiful. I learned a wonderful fact today. Great. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:30] So here’s how it works. We have five rounds of questions about us. Black history, the whole diaspora, current events, you name it. With each round, the questions get a little tougher. 

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