As part of my work-study, I tutor middle school/young high school kids two nights a week. The girl I see on Tuesdays came in with a story last night.

I tutor her in geometry. She brought in a test she'd taken and done poorly on, and it was HARD. You guys, I'm not a math person, but I can generally handle basic algebra and geometry, and this was not that. Worse, the impossible part wasn't even the geometry, it was the algebra required to get to the geometry, which always pisses me off. She's mentioned many times things about this teacher that bother me - he doesn't return graded work in any kind of timely manner, doesn't answer questions in class, doesn't teach in a way that allows them to take their own notes. He hands out packets where they write down maybe a sentence or two, fill-in-the-blank style. In 9th grade geometry.

Anyway, apparently during the test, she'd brought it up to him because she had no idea how to do two of the problems. He told her the work she'd started was right (it wasn't; I went back over it and the answer she got made no sense, although she'd done the math correctly it couldn't possibly be the correct answer to the problem) and she just needed to go from there. Well, she said she didn't understand it. He told her maybe she needed to get a tutor, she said she has one. He told her maybe she needed to come in for extra help, she reminded him that she comes in frequently. At this point she tried to tell him what, specifically, she didn't understand and he said "You don't need to yell at me, it's not my fault you can't do it."

Now, I wasn't there. Maybe she did take an attitude, but from my experience, I doubt it. Maybe he is just a shitty teacher who gets defensive about the fact that he's shitty when it's blatantly brought to his attention. But I've been in that situation multiple times, and when I've gone into explaining what specific element of the problem is causing me trouble, I've always gotten a better response. When I've said "I'm doing what we're taught in class but here's where it doesn't work" I've always either gotten a hint or been told to think about it more - never scolded for pointing out that even though I've been doing it right I'm not getting it.

So it made me wonder if she was getting less help because she's being perceived as angry, and if she's being perceived as angrier than her white counterparts because she's black.