The world may have entered 2017 but it seems the Jim Crow mentality hasn't been left behind.
A Staunton, Virginia, school is under investigation for an alleged racist incident that took place in class, reported an ABC-affiliated news channel.
Tamika Derozen, an African American mother, whose son studies in sixth grade at Shelburne Middle School, was horrified to learn that a teacher had told her son (and the rest of the black children in his class) to come up to the front of the classroom and act like slaves for a skit.
Derozen’s son told her that when the teacher ordered them to pretend to dig for coals and pick cotton, some of the students refused to do so, including him.
“He said, 'Mom, I didn't know what to do. I wanted to walk out of the class, but I didn't want to get in trouble,’” Derozen recounted.
The teacher then called all white students to the front of the class and told them to act like noblemen.
“Why wouldn't she of asked for volunteers or why would she not have included any student of any race to just go up in front of the class and play pretend?” Derozen asked.
The concerned mother then contacted the school and talked to the principal, who apologized for the insensitive incident and told her the teacher only meant to reenact the slave rebellion at the time of the Louisiana Purchase.
However, on Monday, the teacher herself decided to address the complaint and when the students arrived at the classroom, they saw an image from the historical TV series “Roots” plastered on the screen.
The teacher then reportedly asked students if it would have made sense if she had selected white children to play the role of slaves.
“I want you to understand my reason for calling you up as African-Americans is because you better fit the role as a slave," said the teacher, according to Derozen.
After the second incident, the mother took her grievances to the NAACP and is now encouraging parents of the other targeted students to come forward.
Staunton Superintendent Linda Reviea released a statement in response to the incident:
“If such behavior occurred, it is grossly inappropriate, insensitive and contradictory to the values of our school division and will not be tolerated. At all times we expect our teachers and staff to be positive role models and demonstrate sound judgment,” said part of the statement. “I want to emphasize that in no way does Staunton City Schools condone or encourage instruction that deliberately singles out a person or group because of race and subjects them to disparagement or humiliation.”
The question remains why was this teacher even allowed to teach history at a school when she obviously has no sense of racial sensitivity.
Incidents like these are fast becoming a norm in many American schools. Enacting a play to help students learn about historical events is certainly a creative way to teach; however, when a teacher requests a child pretend to be an oppressed minority (especially when that oppression is a very real part of that child’s historical background), then she is not just lowering the student’s self-esteem but is also propagating an environment of divisiveness.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Andrew Kelly