A mother was understandably upset when her daughter came home with an assignment from a school that asked students to explain their family origins.

Where did your family immigrate from?

Why did they immigrate?

Did they know anybody here before they came?

What was life like when they first came here to live?

Were some of the questions the asked on the questionnaire. The only problem? The student in this case was African-American and the legacy of America’s hideous history of slavery and racism colored this assignment ugly.

The student responded honestly with answers like “Africa” and “because the white man wanted free labor”, but the insensitivity that forced these responses most certainly should be critically interrogated. Why did this teacher not know how hurtful and damaging the exploration of these historical facts could be to Black children without proper guidance or– in this instance– context?

The language of this assignment makes it seem as if all people came to America willingly. It upholds the myth of the diverse, melting pot America that is elusive to the very people who have been here since the country’s inception and literally built it with their own hands– African-American people. Sadly, such ignorant attempts to bolster a myth comes at the expense of Black children, like this little girl. Best said by the student’s mother herself:

“The general assumption is made that everyone has some grand success story of families leaving their home country and coming to America in search of better opportunities. But the simple and plain truth is that not all of us have this story to tell and the ability to trace one’s ancestry is a privilege within itself — one that most if not all black Americans do not have.”

This is just one of far too many examples of how Black children are forced to encounter the dark, horrible history of their foreparents at the behest of reckless teachers and curriculums. If the American school system is not busy trying to erase the contributions of Black people all together, it instead forces students to only focus the struggle and strife that mars Black history, while being insensitive to it. There is no shortage of history books that are all together racist or those that try to paint slavery as something that “wasn’t so bad.”

These slights are calculated and not at all something Black parent should take lightly. The primary place where children learn is in the classroom, but what happens when the classroom teaches you nothing good about yourself or your history? As this mother did, it is important that we monitor the assignments given to our children and also demand more sensitivity and awareness in schools.

Without a doubt, there is one place that assignment, and all others like it, belongs: in the trash.

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