In a South Orange, New Jersey elementary school, a fifth grade class assignment was condemned by parents due to its insensitive and counterproductive nature.
In efforts to raise awareness about the terrible acts and concerning African Americans during the dark period of slavery in America, students were assigned to create slave auction posters that illustrated “wanted” slaves. Surprisingly, the illustrations were displayed all over the school’s walls.
According to the New York Post, parents raised concerns on social media after they saw the project this week while attending teacher conferences at South Mountain Elementary School.
“In a curriculum that lacks representation for students of color, it breaks my heart that these will be the images that young black and brown kids see of people with their skin color,” parent Jamil Karriem wrote Tuesday on Facebook. “It is completely lost on me how this project could be an effective way to teach any student in any age group about American history.”
In defence of the school project, the South Orange-Maplewood Superintendent John Ramos wrote a letter, saying the assignment served to give students a more comprehensive understanding of Colonial America.
“One of the anti-bias experts highlighted the fact that schools all over our country often skip over the more painful aspects of American History, and that we need to do a better job of acknowledging the uglier parts of our past, so that children learn the full story,” Ramos said in the letter.
The posters have since been taken down, and Ramos apologized to the parents who were disturbed by the images, NJ.com reported.
“We completely understand how disturbing these images are, and why parents were upset. This was exacerbated by the fact that the displays did not include an explanation of the assignment or its learning objectives,” he said.
There are many better ways of exploring our past history that would not be offensive or disgraceful to people of color in today’s time. This activity was very counterproductive and an insult to African Americans. What does this truly teach our children? Possibly, that African Americans have always been wanted, and or in trouble, also none as “bad people.”
I would imagine a child of color looking at these pictures and envisioning how they see themselves. An understanding that is beyond depth to anyone else who is not African American or has been discriminated against based off the color of their skin.
We must not be insensitive to what was once before. We must give respect to the people who have lost their lives and were treated unfairly and inhumane. We should not try to justify a blatant genocide. Nothing is cute or funny about children drawing pictures of wanted slaves that are being posted for display on school walls.
It should be recommended that all teachers take an African-American studies course so that they can successfully teach children about slavery without being insensitive or unknowledgeable about what they are being told to teach.