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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  • Mico

    How about the majority of the people(accept white people) that came over here generations ago did so forcibly. How about not every ‘american’ came from other countries/continents. This was disgusting and I felt her disgust as well. I chuckled a bit but this is really sad. Not only does this erase and minimize the pain of african peoples, but it does so to the only true american peoples as well. Education and everything else should not revolve around white people, their history, their culture (which is mostly stealing from others smh). They’ve had their 600 years of empire, slavery, colonialism, and war, can we live now????

    • Chazz A

      Right on Mico!

    • Mary Burrell

      You better preach!

  • Slavery is part of American history, yet context is everything. The assignment can easily open wound and emotional pain as the Maafa and slavery are such brutal experiences. Not all immigrants came into America voluntarily. Our ancestors came into the Americas involuntarily. Millions of our people also came into South America too, so the Maafa was involved in South American areas too. Also, the European white supremacists back then used the Treaty of Tordesillas and other policies to promote the evil of slavery at the expense of the African resources of ivory, gold, and other resources. So, we should know about these things. Yet, the assignment was insensitive & disrespectful since America has a long history of theft, war, conquest, and oppression then and now. So, the assignment should have talked about grandparents and where they were or instead where our ancestors immigrated from since many of our ancestors were brought into America in chains. We should promote human dignity for our students and for black people.

  • The Simple Man

    The teacher doesn’t create these “assignments”. The thing is that only a handful of people of any color can trace their origins to 100 % accuracy, so the test itself for damn near everyone is bunk.

  • Rizzo

    sounds like somebody in this child’s life explained slavery to her. she understands it very well. her last answer was just awesome.

    • Mico

      Ikr…she had me chuckling with all her answers because I could just imagine a little black girl saying these things.

    • Rizzo

      she made me smile.

    • Mary Burrell

      She answered well

    • _a_

      Number 3 was too real lol.

    • Rizzo

      very real. she is a very smart little girl.

  • Mary Burrell

    I love her answers “Because the white man wanted free labor ” That’s priceless.