A Detroit teacher was suspended for three days after playing a hip-hop song in class for her students that has a pro-gay marriage message, eliciting a response from the artist that wrote the anthem, who called the school’s decision “unjust.”
According to the Detroit News, The South Lyon Community School District stood by its decision to suspend Susan Johnson, a “popular” teacher at Detroit’s Centennial Middle School, after she decided to let her students listen to “Same Love,” a rap song written by Seattle-based hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
The song, which has millions of YouTube hits and has been featured on primetime television shows like “The Ellen Show,” discusses equal rights for same sex couples.
Since rap duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis dropped their debut full-length album “The Heist” last month, their music has swept the nation and placed them on the number-one spot on iTunes, and put them in second place on the overall Billboard charts. The song “Same Love” also became an anthem for gay rights and people in the gay community.
The school district said Johnson’s suspension was warranted because it broke basic curriculum rules teachers at the school are meant to follow.
“The district has an established practice, included in the staff handbook, that requires the instructor to first preview any taped material to be used in the classroom, including YouTube clips, then submit a completed form about the proposed clip to a building administrator for approval,” the Detroit school district said in a statement.
But the decision drew ire from students, and solicited a response from Macklemore himself, who said in a Facebook post to fans this week that the teacher’s three-day suspension was “out of line” and “unjust.”
“This incident is just one of tens of thousands that have happened across the country where schools have exposed a latent homophobia, preventing safe space for all young people to feel confident in being themselves. It’s clear that Ms. Johnson felt bullying and “gay bashing” were issues that needed to be addressed, and by doing so, was punished,” said Macklemore.
The rapper, who writes songs about his addiction-struggles, gay rights and “Thrift Shops,” also said he wrote the song with the intent for it to facilitate dialogue about gay rights in America.
“This incident demonstrates how too often we are quick to silence conversations that must be had. Even if people disagree, there is far more potential for progress when people are vocal and honestly expressing their thoughts about gay rights,” said Macklemore. “When we are silent and avoid the issue, fear and hatred have a far greater life span.”
The song was enough to inspire some students from Johnson’s class to start thinking about homophobia and equal rights in the U.S. Following the teacher’s suspension, student’s from the class who heard the song that day began writing to Macklemore, expressing their “thanks” for his powerful message.
In a Facebook post on Macklemore’s personal page, he highlighted an e-mail one student sent him about the incident at the Middle School:
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis aren’t new to the hip-hop scene, but with recent hits like “Same Love” and the track “Thrift Shop,” they have grabbed the attention of listeners from every end of the music spectrum.
And certainly, based on the email from the Detroit student, their message is being well-received.