Not to (a) step on the contemplation of Obama’s awesomely clear nailing of the GOP to their current platform: we-hate-America/lets-let-the-Chinese-eat-our-lunch, nor (b) to trespass on Dennis G.’s turf too much, but this, via TPM is in its way even more astounding than the Charleston objectively pro-treason story we enjoyed earlier in the day:
A fourth grade teacher in Norfolk, Virginia is in trouble for getting a bit too real in a lesson on the Civil War, in which she held a mock auction of black students while letting the white students bid on them.
On April 1st, Jessica Boyle separated students in her class and put the black and mixed race students up for sale, according to WVEC News, apparently in a well intentioned, but ill-advised attempt to demonstrate the injustices of the slave era.
“Ill-advised” is as nuanced a way to describe this as I can imagine. I’m even prepared to accept it.
But it’s funny. I’ve been off the ‘tubes for the last few days as I help my students work on their documentary shorts. This year their films are focused on research into conflict resolution. One common feature of group conflict is that one side tends to have more power than others. One thing the people we’re talking to about this research have observed with considerable rigor is that those more powerful folks tend to see the moral world differently — not just from a different point of view, but with different judgment — than do those out of power.
Which is to say that I find it wholly believable that Ms. Boyle meant well…and wholly tragic as well.
Or to put it another way: on the 150th anniversary of Confederate treason in defense of their right to own human beings of African descent, this race thing ain’t over over here.
Update: I realize from the comments below that my that my line about differences in power producing differences in moral perspective/judgment may not have been that clear. That line was shorthand for this question: how it could be possible to genuinely possess good intent and yet produce behavior that to a neutral party — someone not a member of a group in conflict — seems obviously malign, harmful. In that context, the fact that some teacher could (perhaps) genuinely see this role-play as OK is a measure of just how far we have to go in dealing with issues of race and history in this country. (Update edited to make a bit more sense.)
Image: J. W. M. Turner, Slavers throwing overboard the Dead and Dying — Typhoon coming on, 1840.