Here we go again. Yet another teacher in yet another school has assigned yet another assignment pertaining to slavery that is asinine and insensitive.
According to The Tennessean,
The hand-written assignment, which touched on issues of slavery, immigration and child labor, was given out Wednesday in an eighth grade social studies class at Sunset Middle.One box on the homework sheet reads, “Your family owns slaves. Create a list of expectations for your family’s slaves.
Dan Fountain, whose 13-year-old sister was assigned the homework, said…”It initially made me angry. The fact that my sister is one of a couple of black kids at her school, I can’t let things like this sit around and slide,” Fountain said…The way the questions were phrased and laid out had no academic merit. I don’t like the aspect that my sister is describing how she would be treated as a slave. It doesn’t benefit anyone.”
The article continues, “the student body at Sunset Middle School, located in Brentwood, is 70 percent white, according to the Tennessee Department of Education.”
I’m left pondering yet again if Black students are truly safe in predominantly-White learning spaces. I’m not trying to be a race-baiter but it honestly just doesn’t seem that they are. I could be naive and think all these incidents of terror at the expense of Black students’ social and emotional well-being are isolated incidents, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think we are hearing about them more because they are happening more. I won’t go off into speculating why that is although, without a doubt, the current political climate in the United States fosters and nurtures these occurrences.
It all just leads me back to the premise I posed to you in my recent blog post that Freedom Schools for Black students and Black teachers are an educational option that needs to be explored and implemented sooner rather than later. It’s life or death at this point.
I’ve seen first-hand the huge impact that historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) have on Black students. My son is currently a senior at an HBCU and from the moment he stepped foot on the campus of Howard University, I witnessed his growth as a young gifted Black man in America. The curriculum there, even for a burgeoning freshman, lent itself to self-reflection and retrospection through the specific and nuanced lens of being Black in America. One of his first assignments from the RA of his residence floor was weekly readings and discussions of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between The World and Me. This model of Black students learning the skills and tools they will need for navigating life while being Black in America is one that students, teachers, and parents should have access to from the student’s educational inception.
It’s no different than having single-gender schools. There must be room for Black students to have access to educational settings that specifically cater to their needs. Currently, those needs are inadequately addressed in some school settings; in other cases, those needs are being exploited and pounded upon as a means of further traumatizing them.
This alternative to the deeply promoted integrated school model is not exactly a new concept; however, in recent years and in the wake of movements like Black Lives Matter, Afrocentric schools have begun to take root.
According to Eliza Shapiro in the New York Times, “[t]hough New York City has tried to desegregate its schools in fits and starts since the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the school system is now one of the most segregated in the nation. But rather than pushing for integration, some black parents in Bedford-Stuyvesant are choosing an alternative: schools explicitly designed for black children. Afrocentric schools have been championed by black educators who had traumatic experiences with integration as far back as the 1960s and by young black families who say they recently experienced coded racism and marginalization in integrated schools. Both groups have been disappointed by decades of efforts to address inequities in America’s largest school system.”
We tried the integration route. It’s not working for everyone. It’s past time that we open our minds and our pocketbooks to trying another way that will empower and uplift Black students — a population of students all too often overlooked.