After a recent video of a John W. North High School teacher in Riverside, CA, identified as Candice Reed, went viral as she mocked Native American culture in her classroom, the Riverside Unified School District has placed her on leave.
In a math lesson gone wrong, Reed was caught on video by a student, who claims to be Native American, making a fool of herself hopping around the classroom screaming “sohcahtoa”. Later on in the video, we see Reed pretending to hold fake tomahawks and sitting on her desks calling to a “water goddess.”
“These behaviors are completely unacceptable and an offensive depiction of the vast and expansive Native American cultures and practices,” the Riverside Unified School District said in a statement posted online. “Her actions do not represent the values of our district.”
According to the RUSD’s second statement, they are conducting a full investigation on this issue, and it will address whether or not this has been happening for a few years.
The person who recorded the now viral video remains unidentified. However, Akalei Brown, an Indegenous people’s activist and Native History/ Culture consultant is the spokesperson for the family as they do not wish to be identified.
“He’s actually said that he’s happy that it happened to him; we’re glad it happened to someone who was able to digest it instead of internalize it and go home and hurt themselves,” said Brown in an interview with NBC.
In a 2012 yearbook photo, Reed is clearly seen wearing another fake headdress with the caption, “I find that if I tell them a story using math along the way, it’s like a memory device! It just may stick with them forever.”
The Indigenous People’s Movement, which is a global coalition that brings awareness on issues affecting Indigenous people, posted on Instagram their frustration with the situation.
“… apparently this has been going on for years and YEARS. So we know this ‘statement’ doesn’t mean anything.” The account goes on to state, “Do you want your kids to be subjected to this? Should they grow up and perpetuate those cycles? Or should we do better for the generation to come?”
The RUSD statement seems unreliable to me because I do not understand how they are going to make a statement claiming that this does not represent them, but this has happened (as far as we know) since 2012. That is almost 10 years. Something like this just does not go flying under the radar unless the school and district do not see anything wrong with this method of teaching.
The teacher’s actions are uncalled for considering the amount of resources available today. A lot has happened since 2012; many conversations took place about cultural appropriation and about mocking different cultures. I find it hard to believe that something like this flew over her head.
In America, ignorant behavior like this is not new. Growing up, during Halloween I remember seeing Native American costumes for sale at stores such as Party City, Walmart, Target, and Spirit Halloween.
As a kid, I did not realize anything wrong with it because I used to dress up as Pocahontas for Halloween for a few years, but it was not until I was much older that I noticed that people, myself included, should not dress up in such respected clothing.
People should be mindful about costumes that take part in mocking different cultures. No matter how often different cultures continuously say that Halloween costumes mocking them is hurtful, year after year there is always someone who thinks it’s funny or not offensive to wear that costume.
Going back to the RUSD situation, more needs to be done. As this teacher sits at home on paid leave, I truly do not think she is learning a valuable lesson. In a way, it’s like the RUSD is rewarding her behavior.
This just shows how insensitive and inconsiderate people still are. Reed should be fired, she was clearly mocking Native American culture, and has been doing it for a while. There is absolutely no need to mock a culture while teaching a math lesson like “sohcahtoa” because the two subjects should not even cross paths. The whole thing was uncalled for, and I can only hope that she is held accountable and finally learns her lesson.
Photo from Al Día News