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KKK Article Has DiversityInc Readers Divided

DiversityInc’s article “KKK Robes: Why Were They Allowed in the Classroom?” about students dressing as members of the Ku Klux Klan as part of a class project spurred strong reactions from many of our readers. See what they had to say on the subject. Their comments are below:

The KKK and heinous acts they perpetrated on African Americans during this part of our recent past is a painful thread in the fabric of our American heritage. In fact these cowards still exist and their philosophy must be exposed. While this activity may not have been properly executed, my perception from this article is that the teacher was well-intentioned and that she created a teachable moment for all of the students. We watch movies all the time with depictions of the clan, why not get our children to examine racism and convey it through a reenactment? For many, films are the only means by which we have any knowledge of this part of our past. It’s too bad this re-enactment wasn’t the subject of a school assembly prior to the actual filming. It’s too bad the African American students didn’t see it as an opportunity to tell their story rather than viewing it as insulting. We are doomed to repeat our failures without passionate and patient dialogue that leads to reconciliation. Maybe next year, they can focus on how the two races came together to abolish slavery and unjust laws such as Jim Crow.
- Anonymous

While it is true that the role of the Ku Klux Klan in American history should be studied and should not be covered up or forgotten, there is no legitimate educational purpose in “reenacting” racist actions, thereby giving students permission to engage in otherwise impermissible conduct.  
- Anonymous

It is undeniable that the KKK garb is offensive. I am troubled, however, by what I perceive as a tendency to jump to righteous judgment and condemnation of what seems to be a well-intentioned teacher who was employing a somewhat unorthodox approach to engage students in learning about and discussing racism and U.S. history. I worry that the unintended consequence of this kind of reaction is to continue to stifle attempts, imperfect and messy as they may be, to grapple honestly with our shared history. Instead of constructive and capacity-building discussions about intent versus impact and how different perspectives can arise from different historical contexts, I am concerned that the message we reinforce is that race and racism are simply too loaded and fraught with danger to be discussed openly. Once again, we end up talking past each other.
- Anonymous

First, I’d like to clarify that I am a black female. Each year during Black History Month, several schools and churches present Black History Programs whose focus is primarily upon the Civil Rights Movement. My church is one such church. Since I attend a church whose members are predominantly Black, the participants in the play are Blacks playing KKK roles. The cast who portrays KKK members wears sheets and hoods to increase the effectiveness of their roles. We, as the all-Black audience, have no problems with the Black cast putting on sheets and robes. So, why should we get bent out of shape when white cast members put on sheets and robes for the same purpose? Let us be careful not to become the people that we are so quick to criticize—RACISTS!! What would Dr. King think?
- Anonymous

I have not seen students dressed in Nazi uniforms to learn about World War II. It therefore seems odd that students need to dress in Klan uniforms to learn about the KKK. And why does this happen only in the South? Hmmm.
- Anonymous

The views expressed herein are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DiversityInc.

 

4 Comments

  • I think there are enough literature, films and other media resources that adequately depict this subject and there is no reasonable or logical need to teach it by live demonstration. Lumpkin County is very rural and not the most diverse, I question the true motives of this teacher and students in this incident. I agree that some disciplinary actions are in order.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s get this straight from the start. I am a middle-aged white woman from Oregon. Here is my perspective on this incident. My sense is that the teacher who made the decision to allow the KKK robes in her classroom and in the hallways did so most unadvisably and without a thorough investigation into what the possible impacts would be on African American students and staff. He/She may have done this with good intentions but did not explore all of the possible consequences. In addition, were something like this to be proposed in my classroom, I would have consulted my African American friends whom I trust and respect for their opinions. Then, if they believed it to be appropriate or educational for all, I would have met with the students who were planning to don these shameful robes and prepare them for appropriate, empathic, sensitive and respectful behaviors towards all whom they encountered in the classroom and hallways. In other words, no joke-making or insensitive teasing, etc. That’s the part that is so bloody irritating to me. If a 16-17-year old student is going to wear this attire for a history presentation, then keep your mouth shut. It is NOT funny. It is NOT a joke. It was a hideous, agonizing, atrocious time in our history that continues even to our present history.

    As an aside, I noticed that there were no African American students in the teacher’s classroom. Their voices were not heard, and that is not ok. Have you any idea of the radical increase in white supremecist groups in the U.S. since our President took office? It’s frightening and of profound concern to me.

    Finally, it is not possible to know unequivocally the intent of this teacher in allowing this experiential history lesson to play out. I do offer my assessment that he/she was unwise, ill-advised and ill-prepared to allow and support this portrayal of history. I would be so interested in knowing his/her thoughts retrospectively.

  • This may have passed if there had been prior dialogue in the school about what was going to take place and why; as well as dialogue after the reenactment about how it made the students feel, and constructive discussion addressing current issues of conflict or discrimination in the school/community. Being allowed as a class project without any notice or preparatory action was irresponsible on behalf of the teacher who allowed it. A very poor decision.

  • Anonymous

    As a social studies teacher, I agree with the last two writers. Teachers are also learners and deserve the leeway to make mistakes and learn from them. The most positive outcome for all of this is that the lessons students and teachers learn from the media fallout from this incident should be positive and not punitive.

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