roni-dean-burren-world-geography

Tragedies like Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, September 9/11 and others are remembered as tragedies, and rightfully so. Yet oddly enough when it comes to slavery, it’s a moment in American history that’s often swept under the rug, as those who speak out against its ongoing affects are callously told to “get over it.” 

When using common sense however, its impossible to ignore the fact that the abolition of slavery did little to improve the plight of Black Americans. Not when you factor in years of continuous abuse in the form of racial discrimination, brutal segregation, and more. Having only gained the official right to vote in 1965, to suggest that the ills of America have been wiped out in only 50 years is almost offensive. Hell my own mother initially went to a segregated school.

Critics will argue that Blacks must address the issues in their own communities in order to make an effective change. This sentiment is in part true but the issue is, even if “Black on Black” crime was eradicated it doesn’t provide protection from discrimination from others. True racists will always find a way to justify their hatred.

Heads would roll if students were taught an altered version of the events of the Battle of the Alamo or World War II, yet textbook distributor McGraw-Hill Education made the decision to modify content about slavery in America. As Texas mother Roni Dean-Burren discovered, the wording itself was blatantly offensive explaining that “The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”

“Workers.” Thank you Texas, for making the horrors of human trafficking sound like it had a pension plan, full benefits and at least two weeks of PTO.

Thankfully Dean-Burn, an English teacher for 11 years in Pearland ISD decided to fight for the truth, landing over 2 million views after sharing her disdain in a video on Facebook explaining “Don’t Distort History.  Let’s call a slave a slave. ‘Workers’ after all, are paid; they have some say in where they will work and who their employers will be.”

Now McGraw-Hill CEO David Levin has responded noting, “We made a mistake.” No shit Sherlock. It’s not the first time Texas textbooks have come under fire. After standards were changed in 2010, new text rolled out with little mention of the brutal Jim Crow era in the the South or the rise of the KKK, despite the fact that Texas holds the highest number of chapters in the nation. Thankfully states like Mississippi made their voices crystal clear in its secession letter stating, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth.”

Texas’ own secession statement reads “Texas was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery — the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits — a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.”

Herein lies the problem. With educational standards varying from state to state, certain regions have been allowed to teach a romanticized version of slavery closer to Gone With The Wind than the harsh reality of kidnapping and forced servitude. Instead many Americans have grown up believing that slavery was little more than a footnote and that the “Rise of the South” should be idolized as heritage. While it’s true that one can’t dwell on the past, one also cannot forget that happened. Nor can you rewrite the narrative to disassociate yourself from the cold truth of American history. It’s yet another glaring example of the double standards in this nation’s past. It’s frustrating to accept that even the Texas state board saw nothing wrong after its own review of the text. If education is such a chief priority in nurturing the minds of young students, why plant seeds of falsehoods knowing that the truth is a mere click away?

In the end, if we want a new generation to break the chains of our past its important to teach them what to unshackle. They deserve a fair and balanced education, but that seems too much like right I suppose.

Bandit signing out.