Culture March 18, 2017
A Howard University professor is currently under investigation for apparently acting out a mock slave auction in class. What?
The white professor, who was teaching a lesson on Frederick Douglass’s slave narrative, somehow thought it would be a good idea to demonstrate what a slave auction would’ve been like on one of his black students.
Because, you know, why rely on the works of a renowned author and abolitionist — who, unlike Mr. Trump’s confusing words would suggest, is not still alive — when you could just hold your own slave auction right in class?
The teacher reportedly asked the student to stand up because he looked “healthy” and “like the type of slave buyers would look for.” And if that wasn’t bad enough — oh, it was — he then asked the student to “turn around so we can see your buttocks” because he wanted the class to get a better sense of how much he was worth.
Of course, it was all in the name of education, because I’m sure none of those students would have been able to process the horror of a slave auction without being put through public humiliation and objectification themselves. Wait, no. It’s pretty f**king easy to understand. HUMAN BEINGS WERE SOLD AT MARKET. Is anyone really unsure about the inhumanity inherent in that?
It’s been a banner month seeing as this follows a New Jersey elementary school instructing its fifth grade class to make slave auction advertisements and wanted posters.
They were literally hung up in the South Mountain Elementary School hallways like a regular art project. You know, if art projects called for the capture and/or death of human beings, and said things like “Anne, age 12 years, a fine house girl.”
The school didn’t even consider this problematic until local resident Jamil Karriem posted about it on Facebook. He voiced his concern with the project, sharing a few of the pictures as well as a call to action for everyone to contact the school.
“These images were on display for all students (ages ranging from 4-10) to see, including those that would lack any context of the underlying ‘lesson’ or ‘purpose.’ Educating young students on the harsh realities of slavery is of course not the issue here, but the medium for said education is grossly insensitive and negligent. 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,” Karriem wrote.
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The school has since apologized, and taken down the posters. But we can’t help but ask — how is this even happening? And what a sendoff to Black History Month that it’s immediately followed by multiple schools reenacting the horror of slave auctions.
Yes, slavery was an unforgivable and immeasurably cruel blight on this country’s history, and it needs to be taught. Enslaved people’s stories need to be told. But not like this. We can do better.
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