Dressing up seven-year-olds like slaves

Today my girlfriend’s school had a “book parade” where all the classes dressed up like characters from a book and marched in a parade around the school.

She teaches in a mostly-black inner city school. And a second-grade teacher (an African-American woman) dressed up as Harriet Tubman, and had her class dress up as run-away slaves.

All except the only white kid in the class. He wasn’t allowed to join his classmates in the run-away slave brigade. He dressed up as a football player.

In addition, some of the kids in the class didn’t dress up today, and just came to school in their regular uniforms. So the teacher had one of the techs rip up some t-shirts and put them on the kids’ heads, and had them roll up their pants. So they were all able to participate and play her “little slaves” (her words).
Thoughts? Opinions?

The mind truly boggles.

If you decide you have to exclude any part of the class from doing something because of his/her racial background, that should be a signal that it’s probably not a good idea.


I swear to god some people just need a clue by four to the head.

What kind of bullshit is that? Honky Kid couldn’t have been Simon Legree? I see no reason he couldn’t have kept on his school uniform and been Ol’ Massa. He could’ve had a little whip and made the kids pretend to pick cotton and do the buck and wing. It would’ve been adorable! Instead, the teacher’s thoughtlessness made the whole exercise needlessly exclusionary.

This was a bad idea on so many levels that I just don’t know what else to say about it.

Let me see if I can make a list:

*Harriet Tubman isn’t a character from a book, she was a real person.
*The teacher seems to have thought that this was a chance to teach the kids about slavery - great - but is dressing them up like slaves a good way to do it? I don’t think so. This might not be a great Halloween topic.
*Excluding the one kid is just thoughtless.
*Excluding him sorta sends the message that white kids don’t need to know about the history of slavery.
*If my guess about the teacher is right, excluding the white kid because he’s white totally contradicts the basic lesson you’d expect to teach second-graders about slavery, which is that it’s bad because people should be treated equally no matter what they look like.

That’s got the basics, I guess.

I don’t know what it is, but the “Business Casual Dress” ad is cracking me up. And the one that says “Uniforms that work” is just the icing on the cake.

I’m with everybody else on this one. I just hope that this plan was just poorly thought through, and not something wasted a lot of effort on. If there’s some sort of actual thought behind her actions, then I sincerely hope that the clue-by-four is along shortly. I somehow doubt this taught the children anymore about slavery than my fourth grade class dressing up as lumberjacks taught us anything about the logging industry in 19th century Wisconsin.

I just hope there was no chorus of “Follow the Drinking Gourd.”

The only one I’d disagree with is your first one. I imagine they read a bio or story on the Underground Railroad. Everything else in your list is spot on, I’d say.

One thing I’d add: If my girlfriend, or any other white teacher, had their A-A students dress up as slaves, they probably wouldn’t have a job on Monday. And I’m really surprised there wasn’t a parental uproar over this. On the contrary, one of the dads dropping off his “little slave” came dressed up too; barefoot and with fake whip marks on his arms.

This was supposed to be a fun day to help promote reading amongst the kids. Maybe I’m being overly-sensitive, but how is dressing seven-year-olds up like slaves “fun?”

And I’m all for not candy-coating our sometimes-ugly national history when it comes to teaching our kids, but [GOB] COME ON! [/GOB]

Hijack: my girlfriend’s book character costume was Glenda the Good Witch from “The Wizard of Oz.” drool I’m out of state working right now, so I had to settle for just seeing a picture of her in costume. One guess as to what state I’m in. Fuck you, Toto.

I’m sure they did read something about her. Still, when someone says ‘character from a book,’ I’d take it to mean a character from fiction. I did try to put my points in order of increasing importance. Anyway, I doubt this does any real harm to the kids, but it’s stupid.

And I think you’re absolutely right. There would be outrage if a white teacher even suggested this.

A football player?!?! No wonder our educational system is in such trouble. Perhaps a union soldier willing to fight and die for the rights of the slaves would be much more instructive if they teacher wanted to keep things racist.

Hee hee hee.

You know, plenty of slaves looked white. Mark Twain’s “Puddin’head Wilson” story satarized that situation by having the whole plot revolve around a master’s child and a slave child being switched at birth. It worked because the slave mother was fair skinned, blonde and blue eyed, as so were the masters. The morality of dressing up kids as slaves aside, making a point of putting the white kid in slave clothes too would have helped to teach that point.

Yes, morality and ethical concerns about this idea aside, there is no reason to exclude this kid. The coloration, as noted, ran the gamut from blue-black to indistinguishable from whatever is considered to be “white.”

This teacher either did not do her research, or was working on a non-politically-correct personal bias, IMHO.

And having said that, let me add, did they never hear of makeup? I’m not talking about something stupid like blackface makeup, just something to darken the kid’s skin so it looked African-American or whatever? I just don’t like the exclusion here, sorry.

Posted by Robardin’s wife:

I went to a 30% black elementary and there were a few plays and the like about slavery. Escaped slaves are the heroes of underground railroads, so dressing as one is not degrading. The black and white kids played either part based on their
personalities (some whites played slaves, some blacks played owners or Abraham Lincoln).

Of course that was a play not a storybook parade.