Racism is alive and well in one Alabama school district.
In a stomach-turning bit of news out of Alabama, an elementary school teacher there has been suspended after allegedly asking her students to re-enact severe racial unrest in their classroom, showing just how deeply the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown has rippled through the entire country.
Parent Jessica Lynn Baughn reported that her son’s sixth-grade teacher at Brantley Elementary asked him and his fellow students to act out the brutal shooting death of the unarmed black man that has dominated the headlines since Aug. 9. The teacher allegedly asked the white students to play the role of police officers and — you guessed it — the black kids got to be the victims. Baughn alleges that the teacher even “has them get on the internet and research how many times the young man was shot where he was shot at.”
Baughn says the teacher is racist and is teaching little kids to hate one another on the basis of their skin color and she is totally, absolutely, 100 percent correct. I’m all for discussing current events in the classroom but putting on a skit in which white kids act out their white privilege in a round of racist cops and robbers smacks not only of stupidity but also of a deeply rooted sense that what happened in Ferguson — what continues to happen in Ferguson — is nothing more than a game.
This teacher reinforced the disgusting racial stereotypes that have led to the militarization of prejudice by telling these young, impressionable children that black kids can’t walk around in their own neighborhoods without being shot at by white people. How can we ever hope to overcome the rage and the fear we harbor against each other based on the color of our skin if we are literally teaching our kids to act out hate during their social studies lesson?
Some people might call the teacher’s actions irresponsible and misguided, and some may think she had her students’ best interests at heart. It’s hard to believe that, though, given the irony of the school’s location. Selma, Alabama, was a flashpoint in the Civil Rights Movement in March 1965 when peaceful protesters there were beset by racially motivated violence as they attempted to march from that city to Montgomery to demand the right for black people to vote.
When I first saw what was happening in Ferguson via livestream — thanks to the police arresting the press, we were forced to bear witness on the Internet — I was struck by the similarities to the violence that happened during the Civil Rights Movement. Not much, it seems, has changed. And now, we’re teaching our kids that the repetition of this shameful history is not only routine, but that we’re doomed to keep doing it because one of us is white and the other one is black.