Fired Teacher Says Meaning ‘Lost in Translation’ After Calling Student ‘Negro’

Julia Marsh and Yoav Gonen, NY Post, May 23, 2013

A Bronx teacher says her language lesson was lost in translation when she was fired for calling a student “Negro”—though she claims she was simply using the Spanish word for the color “black” at the time, according to a new lawsuit.

The non-tenured junior high instructor, Petrona Smith, 65, was booted from the bilingual PS 211 in March 2012 after a seventh-grader reported the alleged insult.

Smith, who is black and a native of the West Indies, has been unemployed since her ouster.

“They haven’t even accounted for how absurd it is for someone who’s black to be using a racial slur to a student,” said Shaun Reid, Smith’s attorney. “Talk about context! There’s a lot of things wrong here.”

The instructor took a hiatus from teaching special education in 2005 to learn Spanish in South America, because she was passionate about learning the language in a cultural context, Reid said.


She denied calling the student a “Negro,” and explained to investigators that she was teaching a lesson about how to say different colors in Spanish and said the word “negro,” which is Spanish for the color black. She told her students that it was not a derogatory term and that the Spanish word for a black person was “moreno.”


A 2011 investigation substantiated the student’s undated claims based on accounts from four seventh-grade witnesses, even though the student’s own parents said he’d lied about the event.


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  • David Ashton

    She must have been niggardly with her vocabulary.

    • Son of Abraham

      What a blackhearted thing to say.

    • Romulus

      hahaha. Good one! I have a fun little hobby like i like to employ with the inner city yoofs. It involves “Dazzling them with liguistic brilliance and baffling them with BS!!!

      • Cornwall Jackson

        I dazzle them with the heater. Taste the chrome!

        • Romulus

          It’sentertaining to see the thousand stare when you start talking over their heads or even using their own vernacular

          • Cornwall Jackson

            Sometimes if I am forced to interact with them I will throw in a random ebonics word to throw them off a little bit. “Here’s your change, playa”

          • Romulus

            I have no choice but to interact with them here in the mid Atlantic. Most of the brethren know me well enough to know that when I’m speaking their lingo, I really mean fornicating unlawful carnal knowledge (think acronym) you! However, when you say it with a smile and know a little behavior modification, it is very amusing. It’s also a bonus to be in a position of authority. I’ve just just learned to do the verbal tango with them. It’s not unlike speaking with fifth graders.

      • MadMike

        If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance then baffle them with BS.
        W. C. Fields.

        • Romulus

          Excellent. A true american who knows the origin of the quote

    • 48224

      The United Negro College Fund should give the student a full ride to Yale to help him heal.

    • evilsandmich

      The solution is obvious, they need a newspeak word in Spanish to replace their current word for the color black. Blacks (and others) have been destroying our language for decades, it’s about time someone else got a turn.

  • Hey. I learned to speak Spanish, and it has helped me get laid quite a few times.
    When speaking Spanish, use the word “negro” as freely as you wish. Tyrone and Tamika aren’t going to understand you anyway.

    Remember that waiter in National Lampoon’s European Vacation?

  • dd121

    Racial slur? For most of my life, “negro” was the polite term.

    • borogirl54

      Moreno means brown, not black.

      • “Moreno” literally translates to “brown.” But in many instances, especially among east coast Hispanics, mostly Afro or Mulatto Caribbean themselves, “Moreno” is a pejorative reference toward blacks.

    • Ronald


      Yes. Not long ago, calling a colored person a “Black” would have resulted in receiving a swift punch to the nose. So much for using politically correct Orwellianisms for the purpose of Governmental social manipulation. Incidentally, black is not a color. Black is the absence of color.


      • ozamataz

        And usually the abscence of a job, civility and a usefull degree of intelligence.

      • Snowhitey

        It’s just like when they refer to themselves as people of color. To me, they’re monochrome. White people are the real people of color with their vast assortment of naturally colorful eyes and hair.

        • borogirl54

          African Americans also are of different colors. Some are very pale, while others are blue black. There are many whites that mixed with Native American ancestry with high cheekbones that are usually seen in both Asians and Native Americans.

      • mobilebay

        What is the latest PC term that can be used without getting tarred and feathered? It changes so often, I’m hard-pressed to keep up.

    • MadMike

      Agreed one day Black and Afro-American will be offensive too.

      • Sherman_McCoy

        I’m offended by them already.

      • MrGJG

        You’re right Mike. The reason being, blacks by there behavior ruin whatever new term they chose to be called. They think they can distance themselves from the negative connotations associated with whatever new term they conjure-up.
        A rose by any other name…

  • Bandmo

    “Negro Lottery” winner on this, $20,000,000 should cover the pain he suffered over this.

    • joemcgee

      is there a lawyer to take the case???

    • r j p

      Come to the country …. hit the negro lottery …..

    • P None

      Only $20,000,000? That’s very niggardly of you.

  • So CAL Snowman

    Something doesn’t smell right about this story. In Spanish the word negro is not pronounced the same as it is in English. In Spanish the word negro is supposed to sound like “neigh-grow.” Either the teacher is stupid and doesn’t understand how to speak spanish (entirely possible) or someone on the school board had it out for this teacher.

    • Puggg

      Notice her age: 65. I read somewhere a theory that the “vendetta” against her was nothing more than the fact that she was up in age and drew a big salary and cost the district a relatively high amount in health care expenses, when they can use any excuse to slide her out and replace her with a 20-something just out of college, cheaper.

      • dd121

        The article didn’t say that she had worked there a long time. Even though she’s 65 it only said that she was “non-tenured”. I don’t know what the tenure policy is in that district but to say that she is non-tenured implies that some of the teachers do have tenure. Anyway, the whole issue is absurdity itself.

    • evilsandmich

      It says that she’s from the Carribean though; in some of those places their prononciation can be a little flat.

  • I’m still trying to figure out when the name of one of the three biological races of mankind turned into being “offensive” or a “racial slur”.

  • White Mom in WDC

    American blacks hate blacks from the islands with a passion because the actually try to work.

    • Son of Abraham

      I’ve come across a fair number African blacks and island blacks over the years and can there is often a good deal of animosity between them and American blacks. The African and island blacks are generally more refined in their behavior and dress.

      • White Mom in WDC

        That is because in Africa and in the Islands black people go through the British system of schooling.

        • Fathercoughlin

          I think in the “islands” the slaves were treated with astonishing brutality. Here in America the slaves were spoiled and cosseted. God knows our “negroes” are the most spoiled people on Earth—with ONE exception,and you-know-who that is!! The true scum!

      • Ngati Pakeha

        Just a theory but I think the blacks in the islands and Africa have to be more ‘sociable’ as they don’t have access to the same libtards who are so good at giving away taxpayer’s money. They have the same problem in Britain with welfare entitled Blacks.

  • udo

    Something is in the woodpile here. There will soon be a lawsuit that will award this erstwhile innocent teacher with whitey largess. It’s called an insurance scam. Blacks do this for a living in New Jersey. As insurance companies catch on, the blacks move on to “whiter pastures.”

    She’ll probably get some type of payout.

  • ncpride

    I simply can’t find any sympathy here. Too many White teachers have lost their jobs over much lesser things because of these ‘negroes’….

    • White Mom in WDC

      Agreed. I worked in the ghetto schools and got screwed. Hey, suck it up honey!

      • Romulus

        Metaphorically? I would hope that you weren’t hurt by any of the “vibrant teens” I know of a teacher in the nations capital that went through an horrific assault. Im disgusted at how often good teachers are attacked by the groids

        • White Mom in WDC

          The groids don’t give a damn about learning. They only care about gibsmedats and freebies such as ‘brick fuss’.

          • Romulus

            Daily im unwillingly exposed to liguistic “experts” in ebonics. It begins to wear a person down over time. Ya no i mean.

  • The__Bobster

    Would she have been fired for calling us “blanco”? I think not.

  • The__Bobster

    Good thing she didn’t use an Easy Bake oven in class. Otherwise, she’d have lost her unemployment pay, too.

    • evilsandmich

      Taxpayers should not have to pick up the tab when hateful people are fired from their jobs…
      Vee have vays of dealing wif you!
      Guess I should plan on never getting unemployment since I’m an AmRen reader.

  • Token Finn

    Did not blacks set up some organization for the “advancement of negroes” or something? Probably a bunch have existed prior to the civil rights movement. Even the terms that their most gifted leaders used to encourage each other are apparently becoming obsolete. The next thing you know, non-whites will collectively be referred to as “the superiors”.

    It may interest some people that I write regularly on a national discussion forum, one of the largest of its kind, and they censor the finnish equivalent of “musulman” (another spanish word) and more absurdly, if that’s possible, they also autocensor the word combo of “hair” and “hand”. This apparently traces back to the fact that arabic immigrant types have been often referred to as “hairy hands/arms” in this country by common folks, and that must be evil.

    I’m personally fond of the finnish equivalent of “muds” or “mudpeople” when referring to dusky non-whites, but it’s very risk using that descriptive and non-hateful word, because it could get me yet another conviction.

  • The__Bobster

    Fred Sanford loves the word.

  • joemcgee

    Fired Teacher Says Meaning ‘Lost in Translation’ After Calling Student ‘Negro’
    Of course, this is just a bunch of baloney, but it’s very difficult for me to have any sympathy for any of these so called “teachers,” and black ones, I could care less about.

  • brengunn

    An English Premiership footballer from South America was banned from playing for 6 games and fined a fortune for a similar offense. He had used the term ‘negrito’, I think, and though the disciplinary panel agreed the term was non offensive in Uruguay, they banned him anyway.

  • Unperson

    The article (rather idiotically and irresponsibly) leaves it unclear whether the teacher pronounced it “nee-gro” or “negg-ro.” If she was really speaking Spanish at the time, it would be the latter. That question needs to be settled first.

    But regardless of how was pronounced, the word is not a slur in either Spanish or English. Just because some Stokely Carmichael types decided in the 1960s that they’d rather be called “black” (which was then changed again to “African-American” by Jesse Jackson in the ’80s) does not make the word “negro” any sort of insult. It’s a legitimate anthropological term found (well, at least until recently) in textbooks, encyclopedias, etc.
    The fact that blacks can keep jerking us around linguistically like this shows that they, not we, are the ones who control the terms of the discussion. We really need to put a stop to it before they decide that “African-American” is no longer respectful enough and so from now on they demand to be addressed as “Ebony Cosmic Warrior Superbeings” or something.

    • r j p

      Maybe they should be refered to as “Blank Slates” …. slate is usually dark in color, and their minds are rarely filled with edjamakational garbage ….

    • AllSeeingEyeSpy

      “it unclear whether the teacher pronounced it “nee-gro” or “negg-ro.” If she was really speaking Spanish at the time, it would be the latter. That question needs to be settled first”

      I’m sorry, that sounds too much like black people talking about the way you pronouce the ‘N’ word, being all-important. It sounds exactly like that, actually.

      • Sherman_McCoy

        I like the Russian version: n-YAY-gr. Almost as good as “nagger” with an “i”.

    • P None

      Best post I’ve seen in a long time. Laughed out loud at Ebony Cosmic Warrior Superbeings. Don’t give them any ideas.

    • robinbishop34

      I have cans of black beans labelled ‘frijoles negros’ in my pantry right now.

  • me

    They’d better change the name of the “United NEGRO College Fund”, then….a waste is a terrible thing to mind….

  • pcmustgo

    I don’t agree. Blacks insult each other all the time by calling each other “Negro” and “Ni—ga”.. Yeah, she could have been insulting this kid.

    It would be like PC white professor calling a white student “whitey”/

    • IstvanIN

      Or blanca.

  • jay11

    The problem here is that it involved a foreign black and American-born blacks. If the black teacher was the same ‘type’ of black, nothing would have occurred. Blacks of different cultural contexts hate each other. I know this from voluminous personal observation and interactions with various blacks from different groups.

    The second problem is that yes, the students probably lied, most likely because they hated the teacher. You see, black teachers can call out bad behavior of other blacks and get away with it. Any white teacher who attempts to establish order or get the students to act like students will be called ‘ineffective’ or a raciss’. So this was the only weapon the black kids had against another ‘person of color.’

    In my school, the smartest white teachers use a combination of ego-stroking, overlooking bad behavior, cajoling and even outright bribes with candy and food to at least get some semblance of semi-order in the class. When I was a rookie, a veteran teacher told me, “Befriend the worst gang members in your class. Make’em feel in charge. Then lay low, pass almost everybody whether they deserve it or not and hope for the best.” This strategy was more useful than all the PD sessions I ever had. I’m held up by the administration as one of the best teachers in the school!

    • PesachPatriot

      Its pretty sad that this is what the american education system has become….taxpayer provided baby sitting services for gang members…I don’t blame you for doing whatever has to be done to maintain some kind of order and keep your job. Please be careful because you never know when one of them might feel “disrespected” over nonsense and attack you….Keeping a flask of high proof liquid stress relief in your desk might help you get through the day too.

    • r j p

      I have got to give a down arrow to graduating retards.

  • MadMike

    Mrs. Smith welcome to my world….

  • jay11

    Many of my latino students call each other the “N” word, especially Dominicans and low class Mexicans. They use Moreno as a term of endearment. Strangely, there are a few very dark Dominicans who have nicknames like ‘rojo’ and ‘Rubio.’ “Red” and “Blondie”

    • MariaO’Connor

      Afro-Americans are one cultural group. Latinos have different racial/ethnic background, even in the same country, and is more marked in South America. For example: Northern Brazil (mostly Black), Southern Brazil (mostly european, Italians, Germans, etc.), West Brazil (Amazon) mostly indians. Central Brazil mostly portuguese and racially mixed people. Even in Mexico there areas of strong indian presence and others areas where people of european background (french/spaniards) are the majority. “Latino or Hispanic” are not a meaningful identity, they are people coming from an entire sub-continent, and islands, with diverse racial, ethnic, religious, linguistic, national, aspects to their identity. In college I studied that Latin America is populated by people of Spanish or Portuguese, Indian or Black ancestry or their mixture. However, I know many Latinos that do not have, not even a drop, of Spanish/Portuguese, or black or Indian blood.

  • Anon

    Such things do not make sense until you understand we are under the attack of a hostile third culture with a divide and conquer strategy.

    Negros think that terms like n*****, negro, black, etc. are their words. Nothing could be further from the truth. Oh, they are allowed to use them in the context of the schemes of our enemies. Outside that context and they are punished. Had the teacher, instead, used the n-word while rapping about how great it is to rape “ho’s and bitches”, that would NOT have been punished. It’s within the accepted plan of degradation of blacks.

    His sin was not that he insulted blacks. His sin was in normalizing one of the tools, those who shall not be named, used to turn blacks into monsters. They do not allow that.

  • MariaO’Connor

    South Americans call “negro” to the darkest person in the family even if is a blonde person, but is darker than his brothers and sister, they call “colorado” to red haired people and “rubio” to the blondest in the family. Anyone of these names, “negro”, “colorado” or “rubio” are derogatory terms.

  • MariaO’Connor

    South Americans call “negro” to the darkest person in the family even if
    is a blonde person, but is darker than his brothers and sister, they
    call “colorado” to red haired people and “rubio” to the blondest in the
    family. These names, “negro”, “colorado” or “rubio” are
    not derogatory terms. “Moreno” is usually used in the caribean region.

  • Exoplanet Finder

    She was being rico, not niggardly in her vocabulary. She used the richest, most glorified term, in Spanish, for the richest and most diverse group of people on Erff. You other blancos- err, sorry, I mean, you other, uh, lightskinned Amren readers? out there better recognize the special feelings and convolutions this slight had manifestered in this pubescent. Its like, important, and stuff.

  • Paleoconn

    Just think, if we never brought them here, we would only refer to them as Africans, as in the people who live in that continent across the Atlantic, and whom we have never seen face to face. We wouldn’t need to contort ourselves to figure out the most polite way to describe them.