What would you do if your child was given a school assignment to defend the KKK?
Would you protest? Would you scold the teacher? Would you meet with the principal? Or would you support the assignment because it’s a relevant part of American history?
And what if that teacher was Black?
This isn’t a hypothetical situation, it’s real.
A Milwaukee teacher remains on suspension after she assigned her 7th grade students an assignment to support the KKK. The teacher, who is African-American, sent the assignment home to parents in advance.
The 7th graders at the Business and Economics Academy of Milwaukee (BEAM) would watch the movie To Kill a Mockingbird and write a persuasive paper defending Klan members on trial.
“The goal of this paper is not to teach students the Klan was correct in its behavior, but rather to teach the students how to write persuasively,” the teacher explained in a letter to parents.
Still, some parents felt the paper was inappropriate and took their concerns to the school’s principal.
“My eyes got big and immediately got like, got angry,” Damaris Dorsey, a parent at the school, told reporters.
Dorsey said she does not feel the assignment was appropriate for her 7th grader.
“How do you have a 7th grade student take a side on someone who has hated our culture and our background and our ethnicity for so many years?” she asked.
The teacher, because she is Black, should certainly understand that 7th graders don’t have the historical or institutional knowledge to construct an essay on the racist and brutal behavior of the KKK.
So it begs the question: What was this teacher thinking?
Wisconsin schools have issues. A report from UCLA found that K-12 schools in Wisconsin suspend Black high school students at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country and has the second-highest disparity in suspension rates between white and black students.
Milwaukee, the state’s biggest city, suspends Black high school students at a rate nearly double the national average, according to the report. The state also has the largest achievement gap between Black and white students in the country, and ranks last in reading comprehension tests among black fourth-graders.
Milwaukee County is also divided along racial and political lines, and the city is the most segregated in America.
According to the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, “Wisconsin’s African-American children not only fare worse than African-American kids elsewhere, but they also suffer extreme inequities when compared to white kids in Wisconsin. And while the disparities are not as egregious for children from other communities of color, they are still very alarming.”
- Thirty percent of Wisconsin’s white children live in households below 200% of the poverty level, while nearly 80% of African-American children experience that level of economic insecurity. Meanwhile, about two-thirds of Wisconsin’s Latino and American Indian kids live in households below 200% of the poverty line.
- White adults ages 25 to 29 are three times as likely to have an associate’s degree or higher than their African-American or Latino peers.
- White children are nearly six times more likely to be proficient in 8th grade math than their black fellow peers.
So while there are serious racial inequities in the Milwaukee school system, I question why an African-American school teacher would choose to focus on an assignment about the KKK, which has been responsible for lynching countless Black people over the years and opposing civil rights.
Or perhaps that’s the point.
What do you think?