There have been and will continue to be calls for Valerie Scogin — the Louisiana school teacher who essentially called black people lazy animals who should go back to Africa—to be suspended and/or fired. These demands have merit, because not only is Scogin racist, she got her “facts” from a MAGA fortune cookie. And since racist idiots are already in the White House, we don’t need them in our classrooms too. I’m all for equal representation, but Trump done filled that quota.
But as we wait to see how the St. Tammany Parish Public School District responds to Scogin’s behavior ... let’s just say that while this story had my curiosity, the pictures of Valerie Scogin that have been circulating grabbed my attention. And now I’m less concerned with Scogin’s employment status and more interested in who her real momma and daddy is. And also both grandaddies and both grandmommas. Maybe some uncs and aunties and cousins and siblings, too.
Why? Well, remember how the kid from The Sixth Sense could see dead people? Even the ones who don’t know yet that they’re dead? Well, I can see black people. Even—especially—the ones who don’t know (or don’t want other people to know) that they’re negroes. And while I am not certain that Valerie Scogin has some black-ass branches on her family tree, if this were a spades game, I’d call her a queen of hearts. Not a strong possible, but definitely a possible. You could count her as a book, and no one would be mad at you if you did or surprised if she walked.
When looking at and thinking about Valerie Scogin, I’m reminded of how whiteness, in America, is mostly defined by a lack of. Specifically, a lack of blackness. Exactly who and what is considered white has, since America’s inception and whiteness’s invention, shifted and will continue to shift. But what has remained and will likely remain static is that whiteness is negated by the presence of blackness. And because so many of the people who believe themselves to be white need also to be pure for this whiteness to be authentic, any hint of potential blackness in them is contained and suppressed like a contagion.
Earlier this year, the Washington Post ran a feature on white people who took DNA tests and discovered they had black blood in them. Some expressed surprise and intrigue. Others were pressed to retain their whiteness, even if that meant rejecting science.
But for some, white identity trumps DNA. If the test result is too disruptive to their sense of self, they may rationalize it away. One white supremacist who discovered he had African DNA claimed on the white nationalist website Stormfront.com that the testing company was part of a Jewish conspiracy to “defame, confuse and deracinate young whites on a mass level.” Members of white nationalist groups have advised those who discover non-Aryan heritage to rely more on genealogy or the “mirror test,” as quoted in a sociological study of Stormfront members discussing ancestry-test results. (“When you look in the mirror, do you see a jew? If not, you’re good,” one commenter wrote.)
“For me, the number one takeaway is how easily people reject science,” said Anita Foeman, a professor of communication studies who co-directs the DNA Discussion Project, whose respondents are mostly in and around Philadelphia. (In a sample of 217 self-identified European Americans from the project, 22 percent learned that they had African DNA.)
“Many whites would get a new story and say, ‘I’m still going to call myself ‘white,’ or ‘I’m still going to call myself ‘Italian,’ ” Foeman said. “They started to less see race as genetic and more a question of culture and [physical appearance].”
Considering where she’s from (Louisiana), it’s very possible that Scogin perhaps has some indigenous blood in her. Maybe Asian. Who knows? All I know is that sometimes the snow ain’t as white as it thinks it is. And by “the snow” I mean “Valerie Scogin” and “America” and “most Americans.”
Anyway, perhaps a better use of Valerie Scogin’s time would be to take her Queen of Hearts-ass to Ancestry.com instead of Facebook. If she did that, I’d even want her to keep her job, just to see what her lesson plans would be like then.