Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Letting Students Wear KKK Robes in School Might be a Bad Idea

For the end of the year history project, Catherine Ariemma’s students in Georgia were instructed to re-enact a historical event.  Four of her students decided to come to school in White robes akin to those worn by the KKK.  None of the students in her class were Black, though there were some that are of colour.  Said students even apparently asked an African-American child to participate so that they could re-enact a lynching.   Ms. Ariemma walked the students through the cafeteria where Black children were having lunch and this obviously caused both fear and anger.  Ms. Ariemma is now on administrative leave.

Transcript starting at :30

Ms. Ariemma: It was a mistake and I am sorry.  I don’t know what else to say. It was not my intention for anyone to be hurt. 

at oo:56: They were filming an episode on the Klan.  Well you cannot discuss racism in U.S. history and not cover the Klan.  And they came into my classroom and they had sheets, sponge bob hats (note: the hats were to simulate the cone shape of the KKK hood.  They were then covered by White sheets)

Of course Ms. Ariemma didn’t meant to cause harm, many so-called White liberals never do.  How could anyone reasonably believe that allowing students to dress up as the KKK on campus in full view of African-American students would be harmless?  Her intent is irrelevant and what matter is the end result of her actions.

Blacks must constantly be aware of race because we have to negotiate a White supremacist word whereas, those with White privilege need not learn anything significant about African-American history, or culture to be able to survive.  Blacks spend their lives worrying about how their behaviour, language, dress, sexuality etc are interpreted by Whiteness because it is quite literally a life and death matter. Whiteness can simply exist.

Though Black students clearly stated that they have were harmed by this activity, some of the commentators at CNN were more than willing to give Ms. Ariemma a free pass.

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I most certainly agree that a conversation on racism in the U.S. definitely needs to include the actions of the KKK; however, triggering and scaring Black students should not be a part of this ill-fated experiment.  The activities of the KKK are not a thing of the past and they continue to be involved in racist activities that are extremely harmful to Blacks and in fact all people of colour.

Instead of teaching the students about how damaging the actions of the KKK continue you to be, Ms. Ariemma taught these White students that their learning is far more important than ensuring a safe environment for all people.   These kids learned that White privilege over rules the damage that it has historically done to others, if it can be justified by supporting a pseudo liberal agenda. There are many ways to learn about racism and only someone committed to its perpetuation chooses to do so in a way that reifies its existence.