Michael Eric Dyson said this week that his 6-year-old grandson Maxem was called the n-word at Horace Mann Elementary School in northwest Washington, D.C., on Monday. The author and Georgetown University professor also revealed the person threatened to shoot his grandson.
The alleged culprit is a white first-grader who goes to the same school as Maxem, and he also promised to return with his father’s gun.
According to Fox 5 DC, the boy made those remarks after he and Maxem raced to the front of the cafeteria line to be first for pizza. Dyson — who’s also a longtime activist — said the incident is an example of how deeply embedded white supremacy is in the United States.
“Unfortunately this represents for us the deep and abiding roots of white supremacy that are set loose in this country,” he stated. “How can a 6-year-old kid know to call his classmate the n-word?”
Dyson also explained that after he went to the school in the affluent, mostly white neighborhood with his wife and Maxem’s father, they were taken aback because the first-grader wasn’t sent home.
“The child finished out the day, which is incredible to me,” he said.
Next, school officials will meet with the first-grader’s parents, who Dyson also wants to speak to. And Shayne Wells, a spokesman for the school district, said the young boy was spoken to, but he didn’t detail what other actions were taken.
So far officials have confirmed that a threat was made but stopped short of saying the n-word was used.
Liz Whisnant, Horace Mann’s principal, sent a letter to parents after the incident and denied the boy made a racial slur. She also said a third student was involved.
“The incident did not include any language about race or ethnicity … “Harmful language was used and a threat of physical harm,” the letter read. “We responded immediately by removing the student from his peers and taking a number of actions that involved communicating directly with the parents of the three students involved.”
The school district also released a statement and said it will “provide the support the school needs to adequately address this issue.”
But regardless of what Whisnant wrote in the letter, Maxem is sure what he heard and explained how it made him feel. “When he said ‘I got a gun,’ I got scared,” he said.
Plus, Dyson stated that not only is he troubled by what his grandson went though but that he couldn’t be there to assist him.
“He said he felt sad and scared. It’s ridiculous for a 6-year-old to be subjected to this,” he explained. “You never feel as powerless as when your children suffer something you can’t immediately fix or resolve.”