This student is going viral for the absolutely perfect way he handled an awkward situation in the classroom, calling out his teacher for using the n-word twice during a presentation to his class.
23-year-old Maleek Eid is a marketing student at College of the Desert in Palm Desert. His English class was using Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” as an example for annotation when white his professor used the opportunity to drop the n-word word.
“She said ‘they used to use words like…’ and she said the n-word,” Eid told BuzzFeed News about how the situation in the classroom went down.. “I didn’t say anything, I was actually so shocked.” He continued to explain that the same teacher used the word once again a week later in a similar context. “So I was like, that’s strike two, and strike one didn’t sit well with me already.”
That’s when Maleek knew something had to be done–and he would have to be the one to do it. Eid–who is Palestinian–said the word didn’t seem to register as wrong or innapropriate with the rest of the students, none of whom are black. According to statistics via the 2010 census, less than 2% of Palm Desert residents are black.
This upset student was already planning on reporting this incident to the school, but then, the professor assigned an opposing arguments assignment where students would have to tackle a controversial subject. With the memory of his teacher spewing the racial slur fresh in his mind, Maleek knew exactly what argument he was going to do his project on.
That’s when Eid made a presentation countering arguments that many non-black people make in favor of using the n-word, calling out the professor in the process. He ended up recording parts of his presentation, including audio of his teacher’s reactions when she was called out for her contribution to continued use of the harmful word.
According to Maleek, the professor remained silent through the presentation, but defended herself and her use of the word thereafter.
“I said the word because I wanted a response, I wanted someone to say, ‘that’s wrong to say that’ or ‘I take offense to that,'” the professor says. “Sometimes when we’re discussing things and you’re all sitting there going” — she made snoring sounds — “kind of thing, sometimes somebody’s gotta shake you up.”
Eid was quick to shoot down that strategy, saying, “If the solution to getting your class to snap up is using the n-word then you need different strategies.”
The school responded to BuzzFeed News‘ request for comment saying the following:
“College of the Desert’s core values are based on inclusiveness and diversity in all forms, including academic freedom for both students and faculty,” said Pamela Hunter, executive director of institutional advancement for the college.. “It is the policy of the Desert Community College District to recognize the importance of academic freedom in pursuit of academic excellence for both faculty and students. We embrace diversity in all forms and the right of all people to have access to quality higher education in a safe and respectful learning environment.”
Maleek and his professor continued to debate the subject following his presentation, talking about the situation both in the classroom and during a break one-on-one. According to Eid, his fellow students were unsupportive of his stance, either ignoring the situation or giggling, which he said it left him feeling quite depressed.
But the response to his threat on Twitter has brought the opposite response, with most people praising Eid for standing up against his professor and sticking his neck out for what’s right.