Reenactment of Slavery: The worst teaching exercise EVER

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What is the current obsession with slavery?! I try to give the quasi-historical flicks, like Django, produced by Hollywood a chance. I mean I’m really really looking forward to Steven McQueen’s 12 Years  a Slave because its based on a memoir by a black person who was actually enslaved. Its so sad that black people are rarely invited to collaborate on major projects ABOUT black people. What’s even more tragic is that the sources referenced in these works are often quite questionable, with little attention being given to authentic sources.

Recently, Orville Lloyd Douglas wrote a piece for The Guardian entitled Why I won’t be watching The Butler and 12 Years a Slave.  In this piece Orville details his thoughts on Hollywood’s renewed infatuation with period films that portray black people in subservient and oppressed roles. After initially reading the article I did not agree with Orville’s point of view, but nonetheless I could understand where he was coming from. Then, today after reading a story about a 12 year old Hartford Connecticut student being forced to participate in a slavery reenactment I’m starting to side more with Orville. But I want to take it a bit further. White people need to stop watching this shit cause apparently it’s giving them 1) some fucked up ideas about what slavery was and what it meant for black people to be enslaved 2) just because black people can sit through a 2 hour reminder of the violence that  was inflicted on their ancestors does not mean they want to reenact that shit.

The best solution for the wave of stupid shit taking normally sane (probably not) people to the lowest levels of stupidity and nefarious behavior is to stop showing this stuff. First and foremost everyone needs to learn the truth in school. It’s a part of history, probably the most often inaccurately taught  part of this nation’s history. Which leads me to my point.

What kind of people would ever think that having students reenact the traumatic and brutal act of being stolen, forced on a ship, transported to a foreign land and threaten with violence is educational. Well, the staff at Nature’s Classroom thought it was a swell idea. Thank goodness that Sandra Baker’s daughter spoke up about what went down during her field trip to Nature’s Classroom. The student’s account of the Underground Railroad activity at Nature’s Classroom  details how the activity instructed students to do the following

They pretended to be on a slave ship.

They pretended to pick cotton.

They pretended their instructors were their masters.

But that’s not all. Reports cited in The Courant also mention that the following derogatory statements were made about students’ playing slaves:

Going to get the dogs to eat you.

Dumb dark-skinned Negro person, how dare you look at me.

You’re not a person, you’re property.

Don’t look me in the eyes, you’re worthless, keep your head down.

Nature’s Classroom staff also called students the n-word while chasing them through the woods and threatening to cut their Achilles Heels when they captured them. The program’s director has come out in defense of the Underground Railroad exercise. According to The Courant, Director John G Santos had the following to say in response to parent Sandra Barker’s outrage and request for an apology and defense of the exercise:

[The Underground Railroad] activity that has validity, it’s an historical event, it’s a simulation

it’s a complex world and I absolutely believe that at a middle-grade level … the Underground Railroad is only one attempt at making individuals sensitive to an issue.

[The exercise gives participants] the ability to play-act. … They pretended to pick cotton, they pretended to be in a slave ship, they pretended to have slave masters …

[Participants can gain] awareness of physical and emotional and cultural supremacy over another

-But why?! Why is it necessary for anyone to know how this feels?

As much as John tries to emphasize the merit of this program and front about how much it benefits students the truth is in the debriefing. According to The Courant, Student’s reported the following about their experience:

Felt like it was real, felt like a real slave.

Started to believe some of the things the group leaders were saying.

Did not feel like it was a joke, did not know if the leaders were joking.”

I haven’t heard anything about the parent’s suing the school or the Nature’s Classroom organization, but I hope they go bankrupt and can never never ever again have the opportunity to create hostile, racist scenarios disguised as learning opportunities. Somebody needs to revoke every piece of licence and certification that allowed them to operate. From what I’ve gathered the only thing the parents are seeking is an apology. That’s it.

What makes the whole thing even worse is that the school nor the organization has the decency to admit they made a mistake. There isn’t even a lawsuit. But these dumbass people don’t feel like they’ve done anything wrong; the shame, the shame, the shame… Hopefully, something comes out of the human rights complaints the parent’s filed. I pray for a just ruling and resolution.

If you are as fedup and pissed off as I am please please quickly jot-down how ignorant, offensive, and everything else you can think of about this ill-conceived racist program and send it to the Director John G Santos email info@naturesclassroom.org or better yet call (508) 248-2741.

So this is why I agree with Orville and hope that other people start to realize its time out for Hollywood’s obsession with periods when black people had little or no rights. America, let that shit go. It will never, EVER, be like that again. At least not literal chains and shackles, cause y’all still unapologetically massacring black and brown people. But that’s a story for another day.

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2 thoughts on “Reenactment of Slavery: The worst teaching exercise EVER

  1. Pingback: Reenactment of Slavery: The worst teaching exercise EVER | mauriceparrishblog

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