Teachers at a northern Virginia elementary school recently decided it would be a great idea to teach black history by having kids play slaves on the Underground Railroad running from imaginary fugitive slave catchers because, well ... there’s no other way to say this: a lot of racist people are also stupid.
Or, alternately, a lot of stupid people are also racist.
According to a letter obtained by The Root, a physical education class for third, fourth and fifth-graders at Madison’s Trust Elementary School in Ashburn, Va., recently featured the original version old-school hide-and-go-seek. The instructor split the children into groups and had them run through an obstacle course that was designated as the “Underground Railroad.”
The lesson was designed to teach children about ... well ... no one can figure out that part. But wouldn’t you run faster if you were a slave trying not to be caught? Most history teachers know that students have a hard time understanding the harsh realities of slavery unless they are running past the monkey bars by the sliding board just like Harriett Tubman used to do.
Plus, pretending that racism literally might kill you is fun. Sure, the black kids already learned that valuable lesson in another class called “Every Fucking Day” but for white kids, trust me, Confederate Freeze Tag is tons of fun.
In at least one instance, an African-American child in the class was designated as a slave for the activity, according to Loudoun NAACP Chapter President Michelle Thomas, who said she’s heard several complaints from parents regarding the activity.
“Obviously, he’s the only one that’s black, he’s the only one that could have ever been related to someone who used to be a slave, and imagine him carrying that stigma all through school,” Thomas said.
Thomas later clarified that the student may not have been the only black person in that class, but she said the student was at least among a small number of black children participating in the ‘game.’
To be clear, this wasn’t just one teacher who did this. It was three.
“You have three teachers and an administrator who failed to see the racism in this exercise. That’s startling,” Thomas told WTTG, noting that the school district has a long history of discrimination against black students.
In a statement, the NAACP of Loudoun, Va., listed a number of problems at the school including:
- Achievement gaps;
- Black students being denied entrance to challenging academic programs for gifted and talented students;
- Black history lessons (aside from the “Massa May I?” one) and ...
- Few black teachers (the kind of teachers who would have said: “Hell no! You’re not doing that!”)
In a response, Loudoun County Public Schools Public Information Officer Wayde Byard defused the situation by assuring parents that the kids may have been playing slaves but “students during the Madison’s Trust ‘game’ were not designated as ‘slaves’ or ‘slave owners.’
Parents said that children were ...
Hold up. Did this motherfucker just say kids were playing the “runaway slave game” on a course called the “Underground Railroad” for Black History Month but they were not designated as slaves or slave-owners? Does he even know about black history? Who does he think was on the Underground Railroad? Subway engineers? Does he think Harriet Tubman was called the “conductor of the Underground Railroad” because she collected train tickets?
David Stewart, the principal of Madison Trust, issued a letter to parents basically saying: “My bad,” and calling the lesson “culturally insensitive,” which is an interesting way to spell “racist.”
Neither Stewart nor the school board would comment on what, if any, disciplinary actions have been leveled against the teachers. But Stewart noted that the lesson will be re-taught to students as they “further explore” ways they can “ensure it will never be repeated.”
Now I don’t have a degree in elementary education nor am I qualified to speak on teaching black history to schoolkids. However, my years of experience as an amateur and professional black man leads me to offer one suggestion on how Madison’s Trust might be able to avoid this kind of controversy going forward.
Stop doing racist shit.