By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com November 29 2012 4:45 PM ET
A Michigan teacher was suspended for three days — two without pay — after she allowed a student to play a hip-hop song about being gay in her performing arts class.
Susan Johnson, who teaches performing arts at Centennial Middle School in South Lyon, Mich., said one of her students asked to play Seattle-based hip-hop artist Macklemore's "Same Love" in class. The song — created to support Washington's Referendum 74, which established marriage equality — follows the life journey of a gay man as he deals with coming out, finding love, and bullying, harassment, and name-calling.
After listening to the track, Johnson told Detroit's Fox 2 News that she felt the song spoke to timely issues of tolerance and bullying, and would prove meaningful to her students.
"This is one of the things in my school that we're trying to practice," Johnson told Fox 2, "and we're trying to instill in our students — is tolerance to diversity, and also [against] bullying."
But another student in Johnson's class was offended by the message of the song, and complained to school administrators. Centennial Middle School officials wouldn't speak on the record, but Johnson offered paperwork she says the district gave her explaining her suspension. That paperwork claims the song had controversial content, including homosexuality, religion, political views, and a sexual slur.
The song does use the word "faggot," but only in the context of calling out passive reactions to hate speech.
"If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me," sings Macklemore. "Have you read the YouTube comments lately? / 'Man, that's gay,' gets dropped on the daily / We become so numb to what we're saying / A culture founded from oppression / Yeah we don't have acceptance for him? / Call each other 'faggot' behind the keys of a message board."
Johnson said she was shocked by her sudden suspension. "I'm very disappointed in the bias, the bigotry that I feel that they're really hiding behind," Johnson told Fox 2. "I really love my kids and I never want to hurt them, but I also know that there's a lot of bullying and there's a lot of gay bashing and racial issues going on in our country, and I want the kids to feel comfortable in my class no matter who they are."