I didn’t know that was racist! #512.



A Texas teacher claims she had no idea she’d chosen a misspelled racial slur to nickname one of her racially mixed classes.

The white teacher gave each of her sixth-grade classes a nickname and laid out a set of goals for students at Bell Manor Elementary School in suburban Fort Worth, reported KDFW-TV.

A parent said he learned his son’s class had been nicknamed the “jigaboos,” although the teacher misspelled the racial slur for black people, when he asked about his child’s day at school.

So the father, who asked to remain anonymous in the TV report, went to school and photographed the laminated sign, which read: “Mrs. _______’s Jighaboos are at school today to achieve our 6th grade goals and prepare for 7th grade.”

“She makes them recite that out loud,” said the father, who is white.


Officials from Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District said they had apologized to the father who photographed the sign, which they agreed was not appropriate for school use.

“[We] would like to extend an apology for the inappropriate actions taken by one of our elementary teachers who failed to vet a class name,” district officials said in a statement. “We take this situation seriously and the issue was immediately addressed with the principal and classroom teacher. Both the principal and the teacher have apologized to the parent reporting this concern.”

Officials told the father the teacher was unaware she’d chosen a racial slur to nickname some of her students.

Ignorance can be corrected, but I have trouble buying the ignorance claim when it comes to teachers, who, generally speaking, tend to be a bit more knowledgeable than most people. Okay, I’m an old woman who has definitely heard ‘jigaboo’ and is aware of the racism inherent in that term. I don’t know how old the teacher is in this case, and I also don’t know if most younger people, say 20 to 35, are aware of it. That said, this teacher had to pull this term out of somewhere, it didn’t just magically pop into existence. Even misspelled, I expect a few moments of searching on the net would have let this teacher know it wasn’t appropriate. I can only hope against hope that this isn’t a case of a deeply bigoted teacher, who will find ways to introduce bigotry and stereotypes into young minds.

Via Raw Story.


  1. kestrel says

    The British have a great term for the way I feel: “gobsmacked”. I am utterly gobsmacked by that. Christ of the Andes.

  2. Siobhan says

    I hadn’t heard the term before, but I’m also white.

    That said, at least they changed the name and apologized.

  3. says


    I hadn’t heard the term before, but I’m also white.

    Here in uStates, I’d say most white people would be familiar. Jigaboo was often used, in popular culture, dolls, in literature, and so on. Saying you aren’t familiar with that is the same as not knowing pickaninny or similar. And it’s okay if you honestly don’t know, but…internet, anyone? And still the term had to come from someplace.

    Recently, a news anchor used jigaboo in reference to Lady Gaga’s music, and claimed: I had no idea it was a word or what it meant. Obviously, that’s a fucking lie. It’s a very popular lie.

    Jigaboo, jiggabo, jigarooni, jijjiboo, zigabo, jig, jigg, jigga, jigger
    (US and UK)[148] term for a black person with stereotypical black features (e.g. dark skin, wide nose, and big lips).[149] Jiggaboo or jigabo is from a Bantu verb tshikabo, meaning “they bow the head docilely”, indicating meek or servile individuals.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    I’ve never lived in the States (UK then Canada), but have certainly come across the term, always with very negative connotations. Maybe it’s an age thing (I’m 61).

    Caine, the more specific source appears to be the Luba-Kasai language, or Chiluba, from Central Africa. Bantu is a huge language group.

    From Tshi-luba [Chiluba] in the Congo region come such words as “jambalaya” from “tshimboebole” meaning cooked corn, although the term is used in the US to describe a rice, vegetable and seafood dish. Jazz is said to be a derivative o f the word “jaja,” pronounced “jas” or “jass.” “Kingombo,” meaning soup, is also a thick soup of okra and shrimp spiced with file, especially in Louisiana-Georgia Sea Island African American communities in which it is called gumbo. “Jiggaboo” or “jigabo” is from “tshikabo,” meaning meek or servile and came to have very derisive meaning in English.


  5. says

    I hadn’t heard the term before, but I’m also white.

    I’m not sure I have, but I’m also German. But even so, the very sound would make me suspicious. I’d look it up, which leads me to the main “not buying it” reason: What did she think the word meant?
    I mean, if I had to “name” a class I’d choose something I thought the class would like and would mean something to them. I don’t know, the Bears, the Superhero Squad, the Einsteins. So, who are the jigaboos?

  6. says


    he main “not buying it” reason: What did she think the word meant?

    Exactly. Why would you use a word you didn’t know the meaning of? How would you answer when your class wanted to know what it meant?

    Rob @ 4: Thanks!

  7. inquisitiveraven says

    I’m an USian in my fifties, and I don’t think I’ve ever come across the term before. If I did come across the term, I would look it up. Heck, I was preparing to when I saw your explanation in the comments.

    Then again, I didn’t find out until my twenties that “coon” is a racial slur. If I’d gone into teaching, I could see myself nicknaming a class that as a play on my last name which, although it’s spelled quite differently, happens to be pronounced “coon.”

  8. chigau (違う) says

    Canadian, 61 years.
    I have known the word and meaning since childhood.
    I haven’t heard it used in years, though.

  9. says

    How could she know the word without knowing what it means? It is highly unlikely one would hear the word in any other context than as racism or an explanation of the word. And if it’s the latter, then she knew.

    My parents were so disgusting that in the 1980s they still thought it was okay to give a golliwog as a present. When I tell that to people, most 20-somethings have never heard the word before yet they clue in that it’s not pleasant.

  10. says

    Oh gods. I remember having this book as a kid. And would you believe it, my parents are totally not racist. And actually, using capital R Racist, they aren’t. I mean, I grew up knowing who Angela Davis is and participated in solidarity with the ANC rallies and everything. I remember the whole family gathering in front of the TV opening a bottle of champagne the day Mandela was released from prison. And still they let me have this book. Totally popular at that time.
    When my older daughter was born, my husband’s grandma dug out that book again. Fortunately, before I had to silently put it into the waste paper basket, my mum in law told her “you know, that isn’t OK these days anymore, the times have changed.”

  11. sonofrojblake says

    UK all my life. The only time I’ve ever heard this word spoken out loud was by a character in the first “Police Academy” movie, and it was made abundantly clear that (a) the character was an asshole, and (b) this was a racist epithet.
    Re: gollies, here in the UK the Robertson’s jam and marmalade company used to distribute enamel and later plastic badges bearing variations on gollywogs starting in 1928. They discontinued this and “retired” the gollywog branding in… (any guesses?) … 2002.

  12. DonDueed says

    When I hear that term, I think of Spike Lee’s School Daze. In that movie there is a musical number in which two groups of African Americans taunt each other for being WannaBes or Jigaboos. The distinction was mainly a matter of pigmentation, but also referred to how much the group tried to assimilate into white culture.

    Maybe that movie was somewhere in the recesses of that teacher’s memory. Hey, if Spike Lee used it, it couldn’t be that bad, right?

    The scene can be found on YouTube if anybody wants to see it.

  13. says

    Dunc @ 16:

    In fairness, the US has so many racial slurs, it can be difficult to keep track of them all…

    Yes, that’s true. It’s also true of most every other place on the planet. In the case of jigaboo, as has been pointed out, this term has been around a long time, it’s in many pieces of literature which are considered classic these days, and as Don pointed out, it’s been in a Spike Lee movie, and many other bits of popular culture over many decades.

    And given the deep racism of uStates, and the near constant use of one racial perjorative after another, that makes the claim of ignorance more suspicious. Especially so in Texas.

  14. says

    sonofrojblake (#14) --

    Re: gollies, here in the UK the Robertson’s jam and marmalade company used to distribute enamel and later plastic badges bearing variations on gollywogs starting in 1928. They discontinued this and “retired” the gollywog branding in… (any guesses?) … 2002.

    For 50 years, “Darkie” toothpaste was sold in Hong Kong, Singapore, here in Taiwan and elsewhere before being renamed “Darlie”. The name was only changed in 1989. Unfortunately, the new logo is little more than a colour reversal and a few detail changes (from black-on-white to white-on-black). I see it every time I go shopping in the toiletries aisle in stores.


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