Thursday, October 15, 2009


My child returned home from school yesterday informing me that something had happened in class that just seemed wrong to her. She told me how, while she was clarifying her homework assignment with her Language Arts teacher, the teacher responded, “Don’t stand there and give me that dumb blonde look.” All the children in the room stopped their chatter and stared at my daughter, a few of them gasping with disbelief.

I wish a gasp was all that came out of my mouth. Seething and with a deep sternness to my voice, I struggled to control my rage toward the teacher's actions. I told my child I would be at the school the next day to speak with this teacher and the principal. “But, can’t you just send a note?...” she asked, fearful of further discord. That question sent me off on a teaching tangent of my own with my daughter, I began by explaining to her that her teacher is there to mentor her, protect her, not demean her. I explained that by going to the school we would be taking a stand for what is right on behalf of all the children. All the children in that classroom were harmed by this careless remark, this flagrant label thrown out and onto my little 12 year old girl.

How do I explain this complex issue to my little one? She has studied Hitler and knows a small bit about why we remember, why we discuss him in history, I decided to try by starting there. I reminded her that Hitler began his hate crusade, resulting in the murder of 6 million Jews and others, with one simple speech. One. At first, I'm sure, after hearing his words of "hate" many went home and had their own thoughts and discussions on how they felt about what he said. But, he continued to make his speech, repeatedly (among other tactics) until many people no longer had independent thoughts, no longer questioned or searched for the truth. Labeling, as in "Dumb Blonde,” just one example of many, creates the same mindlessness. Labeling people strips them of their humanity, removes the person from the scene and allows those standing and observing the freedom to feel and further express the hate thrown into the room and onto the person.

Hate clothes itself in many disguises. Name-calling or labeling a person to a particular category or stereotype is a form of hate resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts wherein the recipient or victim of the label will inevitably live up to the expectations and definitions of that label and along with the label comes preconceived ideas, connotations, discrimination, and worst of all, invites hate toward the individual from others, often without conscious awareness. It is a sneaky devil, a hate breeder. Sociologist Howard Becker, developed the Labeling Theory (also known as social reaction theory) in the book “The Outsiders” in 1963. The theory asserts that the process of labeling an individual by someone in a position of authority results in that person living up to the definitions of the label. One creates a situation far worse than the original one.

At the school the following day, I spoke with 2 principals and the Language Arts teacher. Upon my realization that the teacher was herself a blonde, compassion swept over my heart. I decided secretly to hold it there until I heard the teacher tell her side of the story. She did indeed agree that it was possible that she said something of the sort to my child. I expressed all my feelings about this situation to her and informed her that I am a “Seeker of Peace” and this set the tone for our meeting. I refuse the inclination to butt hate against hate, like the song by Todd Snider in which he says, “Fighting for peace is like screaming for quiet.” I do believe approaching a situation with an open heart and a reasonable mind results in a peaceful remedy. I further explained to these mentors I’ve entrusted, that my sister was murdered because of misplaced hate, my child was removed from a home with domestic violence to come live with me, and that my husband and I work very hard to teach our child self empowerment, but despite these reasons, I would still be sitting there making a wrong into a right. Maya Angelou has been quoted as saying and I too will say, “When you stand up, you stand up for everyone!”

Words are powerful, a knife cut heals, wounds inflicted by words almost never do, especially when a child is the recipient/victim. Thirty some odd children witnessed this teacher’s ill behavior and are highly likely to believe it is acceptable now, walking out of the room and continuing the subliminal messages of hate by using the same words. This was of great concern to me. I was there for every child, everyone. I expected an apology to be given to every child in that class along with my daughter. I expected this “slip” of the tongue, as the teacher put it, to be discussed at length with the children, telling them why we don’t generalize and label others, why we don’t use demeaning words, in other words, why we don’t breed hate. A teacher teaching by example.

You must realize, I am on constant watch for the guises of hate. I suffer a loss everyday because of hate. I sage smudge my house if I feel it has been intruded upon with hate energy. I leave the bad, sensationalized, tragic, unnecessary news presented by the media for others to view. I screen movies in my own home, so that I can decide to flip the violence and hate OFF. I guard and protect my heart and spirit because I know firsthand that hate can stealthily creep into your thoughts, and we are surrounded by it, inundated with it in every arena of our lives, from movies, to primetime television, to war games on Facebook, to shoot-em-up simulated video games, and even in the powerful melodies of our music. The brain is a malleable tissue and easily influenced.

Be careful my friends, be cautious about that which you let enter your mind through the media, what thoughts you allow yourself to think-be positive always, what seemingly benign phrases you toss out, who you associate with, what entertainment you engage in...choose wisely, or you too may find yourself, like this teacher, culpable.

By the way, my daughter happens to shine brilliance! The “dumb blonde” in the title....well, you can guess who that is.

--Victoria Hart


  1. Unbelievable! How are some people allowed in a classroom? Then they are supported by the principal by this behavior. Did they do anything to right the wrong? So glad you went and brought this to their attention.

  2. She spoke to the class about putting people in a "box" and explained why that was wrong...gave my daughter a proper written apology.
    Thanks for the comment.

  3. Victoria, If I were to ever get into politics and vote, you would be my candidate. So, I vote for your writing, your sense of right, your courage to put it out there for all to digest, and your willingness to let love guide all that you attempt. Being human we do make mistakes but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be held accountable for them, as you required of the teacher, so should we require it of each other and ourselves. I'm so glad you went down to the school to get this resolved. So many parents would never have even had a second thought about it. Too many parents completely ignore their children and it bothers me.

    My daughter is 37 now. When she was in 7th grade she wrote a story as an English assignment. The teacher was positive that my daughter had copied the story from somewhere and that her words couldn't possibly have been written by a 13 year old. My daughter explained that her mother was a writer. The teacher would have none of it and insisted that my daughter admit her plagiarism and apologize to the class. When she refused I was called in. Like you, I went to bat for my child and, knowing that she walked in truth, supported my daughter's writing 100%. We all learned that day, especially the teacher. I never doubted the origin of my daughter's story and never would have let her take the fall because the teacher narrow-mindedly chose to attack my daughter for her mature writing.

    You daughter is so blessed to have you, and so are we. Blessings on all, Connie

  4. I think we forget that we have some control over the media and the messages that come into our homes. We put the tv away for 6 months when our children were small and were amazed by the positive vibes around our house and between us. Sadly the TV crept back into the loungeroom. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Thank you Heather...yes, I do think the media messages contribute to the cumulative ptsd phenomenon, ever increasing in it's prevalence.

    Hi Connie, thank you for supporting me. I can't imagine not standing up for anyone mistreated, especially those unable to defend themselves. (I hope your daughter is continuing to write!) XO

  6. I read this and nod my head, having been called names recently - as an adult - by members of the media, by the current White House administration. Because I disagree with current political policies I have been called a racist, a hatemonger, a redneck, stupid, uninformed. Here I will disagree with the label theory you talk about - there is no danger I will become any of these things. The name calling does, however, tell me all I need to know about those labeling me as such, shows me the hatred in their hearts.


  7. The Label Theory is a good guide to follow as how not to categorize or box people in, further desensitizing us to others humanity. It is tough for some to overcome.
    Happy to read your interesting comments Debi! Thanks

  8. Wow....good for you. Impressed as always....and I'm loving your blog even though I haven't commented much as yet....

  9. Thanks Cynthia! I love your blog too, but you know that. --V