Education & Information

A class presentation listing 'pros' and 'cons' of slavery is why we need racism education

A class presentation listing 'pros' and 'cons' of slavery is why we need racism education

How race and racism are handled in schools has been an issue for decades, but the debate has been pushed into the spotlight in the past couple of years as the Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum. Hysteria over critical race theory (or what people think critical race theory is) has overtaken school board meetings and resulted in legislation governing what can and can't be talked about in the classroom when it comes to race and racism.

A viral photo of a class presentation listing the pros and cons of slavery illustrates how vital it is to incorporate racism education in schools. The watering down of American slavery has gone on for far too long, and no matter what the assignment was here, this kind of slide has no place in a classroom.

The image, which seems to have first been shared in 2016, shows what appears to be a student presenting a slide with the title, "IS SLAVERY ALWAYS BAD?" followed by a list of "pros" and "cons" of enslaving people.

According to the presentation, the pros of slavery include:

- Slaves would be beneficial for some companies due to faster work performance

- Not all slaves are treated with neglect

- Most slaves have food, shelter, and clothing

- Slavery can be viewed as an opportunity to pay off debt.

And the cons listed were:

- Slaves were sometimes harshly beaten

- Slaves have little to no freedom

- Families may be separated

- Slavery goes against human rights.

Hoo boy. Lots to unpack here.

We don't know what class this photo came from—maybe history, maybe a debate class—but it doesn't matter. There is one, and only one, correct answer to the question the slide poses. YES, slavery is always bad. End of discussion. There are things that are simply not debatable, and slavery is one of them.

But unfortunately, it's far too common for Americans to engage in these kinds of "let's weigh the pros and cons before determining if making Black people work for free, using violence and family trauma to keep them enslaved for centuries, was really as evil as it sounds" arguments. It's been happening in textbooks and classrooms throughout our history. It's wrong. It has always been wrong.

We don't even have to stretch our imaginations very far to understand why it's wrong.

Imagine a slide asking, "IS GENOCIDE ALWAYS WRONG?" with a list of pros that include "A smaller population would be beneficial for some due to fewer mouths to feed" and "Many people killed in a genocide aren't tortured before they die." No. We don't do that. Never ever.

Imagine a pros and cons list like this for domestic violence. Pro: Abusers get what they want. Con: Sometimes the abused get physically injured. Ridiculous, right?

Imagine asking high schoolers to make a pros and cons list for drunk driving. No. That would be asinine.

But some people treat slavery as if it's debatable how bad it was. I once had someone try to convince me that slavery wasn't all that bad because "many slaves were considered members of their owner's family and weren't mistreated." As if being enslaved was not mistreatment in and of itself. The mental gymnastics some Americans will do to make slavery sound better than it was is astounding.

The fact that this slide was made and presented to a classroom in the 21st century is an indication that education about racism in schools is necessary. This slide is racism, and the fact that that's not obvious to everyone is exactly the problem.

This kind of presentation is what happens when you teach slavery as if it were just another policy decision and not the racist, dehumanizing evil driven by white supremacy and greed that it was. We need to teach history honestly and thoroughly, explaining the racist ideology that led to racist chattel slavery in the United States and the racist oppression that followed emancipation. Otherwise, we end up with this kind of whitewashed, false-equivalency pros and cons list that has no place in a civilized society.

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They first explained that way back when movies were first moving from silent film to spoken dialogue, actors had to enunciate and project loudly while speaking directly into a large microphone. If they spoke and moved like actors do today, it would sound almost as if someone were giving a drive-by soliloquy while circling the block. You'd only hear every other sentence or two.

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