A professor at the historically black Howard University went too far when he attempted to teach his students about the hardship of slavery by turning his class into a mock slave auction.
The unnamed teacher, who is white, was giving a lecture on the African-American reformer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass when he singled put two black students in the class and told them to come up in front of the class and act like slaves on the block. His reason for selecting the two young men was because they looked “healthy… like the type of slaves buyers would look for.”
After hearing the professor’s request, many students asked the teacher to stop, but he didn’t.
“The professor asked me to stand up and I reluctantly did so. He started propping my body up as if we were on a slave auction block,” the student said.
The unnamed professor then asked the other students to examine their peer’s height, weight and teeth to demonstrate how slaves were examined before a sale, as the class looked on in horror. But he didn’t stop there.
Instead, he tried to increase the student’s humiliation by adding sexual harassment to the equation.
He instructed the student to “turn around so we can see your buttocks,” according to an article on Caged Bird.
“I wanted to hit him,” the student said. “I was being racially and sexually harassed in front of my peers and the only thing I could think to defend myself was by punching him.”
After shaming the student to full extent, the teacher deemed the “slave” would have been sold for $400 and then tried to undermine the feelings of the student by stating, “It’s OK, I’m uncomfortable too. I’m white.”
The professor also reportedly asked the other students in class if the “slave auction” was difficult for them to look at.
According to the student, the professor did ask the young man to tell him to stop whenever he felt uncomfortable.
“I stood up because I didn’t expect him to do or say the things he said and did. I didn’t sit down sooner because I was so shocked,” the student said.
“He asked me to show my butt to the class so that he could get a better sense of my worth and had the audacity to say that it was uncomfortable for him too because he’s a white man,” the student said.
The professor’s flimsy excuse that he was “uncomfortable” also did not help the student in the least, who probably felt like he was transported back to the dark ages when black people were enslaved, oppressed and persecuted.
Other students who witnessed the horror also said they were angry at the teacher for his blatant racism.
“It is interesting how in the confines of an HBCU (Historically Black College/University), racism is still present,” one of the students in the class commented.
“If you’re telling someone to turn around and show their behind, I don’t think your intention was to teach,” Howard University student Paris Copeland told WUSA9.
“Personally I’m upset. You can’t really have a mock slavery auction at HBCU, especially being a professor of a different race,” student Corey Jefferson added, “I feel a little bit disrespected by that, just because, I feel as though we’re past that.”
Howard students are demanding the resignation of a white professor who held a humiliating mock slave auction https://t.co/AZhRjgJ2hH— BET (@BET) March 21, 2017
Not at a HBCU!! https://t.co/Enz8X0ck7s— Comedy Act Planet (@comedyactplanet) March 22, 2017
On Monday, Howard University released a statement on the issue saying, “The university is aware of the incident and is investigating the matter.”
Exactly what was going on in that teacher’s head that he thought it was OK to stage a slave auction? And that too in a historically black university — a place considered to be a sanctuary for black students. It just boggles the mind how educators, who should know better, are actually instrumental in spreading racism through their uninformed ways. A professor like this, who has no concept of racial sensitivity, should not be allowed to enter any academic institution — especially not a historically black one.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Suzanne Barlyn