2009-11-09

Black Students Told To Act Like Slaves


I remember being one of few black children growing up in my schools. Whenever we mentioned any type of black history we talked about slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. This usually occurred in February. This usually entailed white people being upset and or crying at the horrible practice of slavery and personal apologies to me as if I was personally a slave. As a person who has never been a slave, I just looked at them crazy and went on. I was uncomfortable about talking about slavery because I knew those kids always saw me differently, and looking back now, that discomfort came from the fact that these kids were influenced by parents, grandparents, and vast other relatives who had views of black people based upon the concept that we were slaves, and then after that inferior enough to need to be segregated from. They knew I was different, I was other, and even if they would never admit it less than in many cases of my classmates. The same ones who were shocked I was in advanced/honors classes, that I didn't live in a ghetto, that my parents were degreed and expected me to go to college, and that I didn't fit into the black "stereotype" they expected most black people to be.

Recently, a black historian at Latta Plantation in N.C., Ian Campbell decided to uphold historical accuracy by choosing three black kids out of a majority white 5th grade class to put a bag on their shoulders and pick cotton. Some parents at the school were upset. Mr. Campbell, the historian felt that he wanted to be historically accurate instead of politically correct. You know my feelings on the political correctness scapegoat.

I wonder if Mr. Campbell thought of other ways to discuss slavery. Like showing how hard slavery was, or retelling the account of a slave through a slave narrative, or did he go all out and make some of the white students overseers complete with whips?

Did Mr. Campbell have no other options to express historical accuracy without singling out black children to pick cotton? Did he not think it would make them uncomfortable? Did he not think that now these kids are going around thinking that black folks did nothing in the span of American history but be slaves and pick cotton?

I understand you want historical accuracy, and I know Mr. Campbell is black, but does his blackness make his actions ok, or less racist?

Here is a link of Campbell defending his actions.

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