One of the most common racial stereotypes that Black people have faced since the dawn of racism is being negatively compared to primates, both physically and in terms of animalistic behavior.
A Michigan teacher chose to uphold that bigotry in the most mischievous of ways by sneaking it into a lesson plan and asking students to “identify the primates” amongst a set of pictures of monkeys and one depicting former U.S. President Barack Obama.
The teacher, who’s been given anonymity for harassment reasons perhaps, was working at the Birmingham campus of Michigan’s Roeper School in Bloomfield Hills when everything occurred. Students were given a worksheet (seen above) that featured a handful of monkeys, apes and even lemurs. However, right next to the animals was a photo of Obama from his early term as President; students were then asked, “Which of the following are primates?” Keep in mind, The Roeper School’s Birmingham campus houses middle school and high school-aged students.
More details below, via USA Today:
“‘The choice to use this piece of curriculum was completely inconsistent with our School’s philosophy and mission and we sincerely apologize for its use and the harm it has caused. While the teacher has taken responsibility and admits the mistake of not properly vetting the resource, we know that is not enough and she has been placed on administrative leave until further notice,’ the statement continued.
Carolyn Lett, director of diversity for the school, confirmed that the worksheet was assigned on May 11, and the school received a letter from a concerned parent the following day, The Detroit News reported. It was assigned to approximately 30 students.”
While this might’ve flown with pre-K or kindergarten-level toddlers — and we’re giving this teacher a lot to even say that! — the fact is that we’re talking about preteens and teens that are very aware of what’s going on in the world today. There’s no reason to believe a student of that age wouldn’t know the difference between an animal and the greatest U.S. president ever, who just so happens to be a human being.
Do better, Roeper School.
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