A mother of three in Cerritos, California, recently experienced a plethora of emotions when she learned about an immersive history lesson involving slavery which was taught in her son’s class.
Shardé Carrington, 31, whose child attends Whitney High School in Cerritos, California, told HuffPost she received an email on September 5 about a “Unique Learning Experience.” The message informed parents of an exercise wherein students would learn about slavery through a role playing lesson that would involve teachers acting as “slave ship captains” and students as slaves.
“Specifically, when class starts,” the email to Carrington read, “we will sternly tell them to line up outside the classroom, use masking tape to ‘tie’ their wrists together, make them lay on the ground inside the room (which will be dark) shoulder to shoulder with each other (boys and girls are in separate rows), and then while they lay there, have them watch a clip from Roots.”
Carrington, who is Black, told HuffPost she felt the teachers, treating the exercise as a “unique learning experience,” were being “irresponsible at best, manipulative and dangerous at worst.”
According to the email, students were not privy to the lesson before the start of class in order to maintain an element of “surprise.” Carrington explained that her eighth grade son knew about the lesson because ninth graders told him about what they experienced.
“As the mother of a Black child, I feared that my son’s participation would lead him to experience trauma, perhaps at the cellular level, and have a visceral reaction of anger and fear during the exercise itself,” Carrington told HuffPost.
Carrington sent a response to the eighth-grade history instructors and stated her son was forbidden from taking part in the “demeaning and grossly insensitive exercise,” and she also argued the atrocities of slavery cannot be summed up “with [masking] tape and a movie clip.”
A counselor first responded to Carrington's concerns, then Principal John Briquelet reached out to assure her the social studies chair would be emailing her. Carrington told HuffPost the email she received was disappointing.
According to Carrington, he wrote that the department has been facilitating the slavery lesson for 10 years, with “almost universal appreciation.” The email also said the exercise was not meant to demean Black students, but to put the non-Black student population “into the harrowing world that your ancestors suffered through so as to gain better insight into their plight.”
He offered to continue a dialogue with Carrington via email or in person, but he did not back down from the seeming necessity of the slavery role-play.
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