16 comments on “Cotton Picking Day?!

  1. Fun-ny! They’re just ahead of their time. After all, nobody bats an eye when kids dress up as injins on Thanksgiving & even Halloween. <_< At this rate, give it another 20 or so years & kids will be running around yelling “trick-or-treat” decked out in black-face. Yes, people are that stupid.


  2. Bravo to Mr. Coleman. Stunts like this should NEVER be tolerated, whether it was done by a black school, a white school, or any school in between. History can be taught without subjecting children to same conditions you are teaching about. Jewish children should not be forced to spend a day in a concentration camp to learn about their history. Muslim children should not have to spend their time in Guantanimo Bay to understand the treatment of Arabic people. Why should this foolish stunt be any different?

  3. OK. I’ve seen people perform as slaves in plays and movies. But never before in my life have I see people teaching/learning about slavery by simulating cotton picking. One of the most atrocious events in this country’s history reduced to show -n- tell and dress up?

    I never thought I’d steal any ideas from BET, but seriously: we got to do better.

  4. Not to take away from the sheer absurdity of this story, but I thought your post was HILARIOUS! I saw you giving us white people an earful. But when I read the article I was thinking “Uh…he does know this wasn’t a ‘white’ school, right?” Then I read the rest of your post, and it all came together. Very funny Andre! 🙂

  5. Hmmm. I had to think about this one. I have always supported the need to tell history as it is without covering up or apologies. History is what has happened. Let’s get on with learning from it. Hence, I believe that many young Jews do feel compelled to visit the concentration camps. It makes history more real to them. Being Yellow myself, I would not mind learning more about how the Chinese help build the continental railway and to visit the sites and understand their living conditions.

    In this “cotton pickin'” case though, it does seem that the idea was not carried out appropriately. If the intent was to educate people about slavery and its ills, it may be legitimate to have the students try their hands at cotton picking so that they would learn how difficult work it was. However, the way it was done which was like a fancy dress day, only seems to trivialize the topic. It feels like the topic and consequence of slavery was not handled with respect for those who went through it.

    Back to my example of Jewish youth visiting the concentration camps. Done with respect, it helps them connect with their past and their lost kin. But imagine if part of the experience was a theme-park like recreation of life in the camp and they had to dress up as prisoners and the whole thing was done light-heartedly in a Disney-esque manner. Then, it too would be a disservice.

    By the way, you set up the punch for this post very well.

  6. @ Cyn: I get your point. But please, for the sake of every black person in America, never….EVER…refer to B.E.T. in a serious conversation again. The only exception would be if you’re saying “B.E.T. is the devil.” That is all.

    @ Anon: “ok the school was mostly Black but was the principle Black?

    Unfortunately, yes.

    @ LGS: “…the way it was done which was like a fancy dress day, only seems to trivialize the topic. It feels like the topic and consequence of slavery was not handled with respect for those who went through it.

    For me, that sums it up. Great point.

    I can recall my one of my teachers – not even a generation removed from being a sharecropper – bringing several shrubs of cotton (or batches, shucks, bales, whatever the correct unit of measurement is…) for demonstration. Not being familiar with the anatomy of the fiber or the process of separating it from seeds, I developed a newfound appreciation for how laborous it was. So I definitely understand their intentions.

    But making it into a “day’s” celebration would – in fact – trivialize it IMO. And not to denigrate or water down the oppressive histories of others, but if there was ever a story that should never be trivialized within the context of American history, its black people’s.

  7. Looking at the big picture, I see where the school is coming from in trying to be original and innovative in teaching children these days who – quite frankly – need innovation to have their interest kept. But this was poorly designed and even more poorly executed.

  8. Outside of just how bad of an idea this was, I can’t help but wonder how safe it would have been to physically go to a cotton field to work. With all the pesticides and chemicals used in cotton fields, this could have posed a serious health threat.

  9. “To all the black readers of “The Unmitigated Word“, I must ask: have your people lost their cotton-pickin’ minds…?! ”

    “Egh. Dre, what’s wrong with your cousins?!”

    LOL! 🙂

  10. Obviously, the school has some misguided and culturally illiterate educators. I’m not going to “call out” white people. I will say this:

    1. Good for the dad for speaking out.
    2. This is a perfect opportunity for the parents to push for community conversations on this issue. The conversations will need to be facilitated by someone highly experienced in overseeing discussions related to race and culture. Board members, the superintendent, all principals, and teachers should be required to attend. The school district would have to host several of these conversations, of course.

    I also recommend that cultural literacy be a part of professional development in the school district. Will perceptions change overnight? No, but we have to start somewhere.

    I know this comment is awfully long, but you might want to check out an interesting conversation on the Teacher Magazine website. The topic? Is Black History Month Outdated?

  11. Amen Deb! Couldn’t put it better myself! This is certainly not a situation simply calling for people to get angry one minute and forgetful the next. This is a perfect opportunity to bring to light some deeply supressed issues. This isn’t just a Black History Month issue. This is an American issue.

  12. Deb, I love your ideas. When we think of racial sensitivity, we tend to assume that non-blacks should be the target audience. But in many instances, some of the discussions of race and culture need to be aimed directly at people of color.

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