KKK Assignment Asks Fifth Graders to Explain Justification of Racism
"You are there … You are a member of the KKK. Why do you think your treatment of African Americans is justified?" the assignment asks.
A fifth grade teacher in South Carolina has been placed on administrative leave after asking her students to provide a justification for the actions of the Ku Klux Klan.
Tremain Cooper, an uncle of one of the students who received the assignment, identified the teacher on Facebook as Kerri Roberts, who gave the assignment at Oak Pointe Elementary School. Cooper posted a picture of the assignment and said it brought his 10-year-old nephew to tears.
"HOW CAN SHE ASK A 5TH GRADER TO JUSTIFY THE ACTIONS OF THE KKK???" Cooper wrote.
The original post appears to have been taken down. Below is a screengrab of the assignment:
The assignment also asks students to identify the KKK's "Purpose and Motivation" and "Effects on Opportunities of African Americans."
"I felt bad for my nephew because he was emotional," Cooper said to NBC Charlotte. "He had become upset because he thought he may get in trouble because he wasn't able to complete his assignment."
He called the incident "heartbreaking" for his family but told NBC Charlotte that he hoped the Facebook post would "bring attention to the larger issue."
"I believe the conversation needs to be elevated," he explained to the outlet. "I want the conversation to be centered around including more Black male and female teachers in the classroom."
Oak Pointe is a part of Lexington & Richland County School District Five. Katrina Goggins, a spokeswoman for the district, said in a statement to The New York Times, "South Carolina standards for fifth grade require lessons on Reconstruction and discriminatory groups, including the KKK. We must teach the standard, but we are taking steps to ensure this particular assignment will never be used again in District Five schools."
Goggins confirmed to The Times that Roberts had been placed on leave but did not specify whether it was paid or not, the publication noted.
The South Carolina Department of Education website provides standards for students based on grade level and subject. Fifth grade social studies are asked to "demonstrate an understanding of Reconstruction and its impact on the United States."
"Explain the purpose and motivations of subversive groups during Reconstruction and their rise to power after the withdrawal of federal troops from the South," the guidelines state.
The outline also specifies what is and is not essential for students to know. For what is essential, the standards mandate:
"During the Reconstruction period several discriminatory groups developed in order to intimidate the freedmen. The most infamous of these was the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Originally the KKK was a social organization of ex-Confederate soldiers, but it soon grew into a terrorist group. The goal of the KKK was to use violence, intimidation, and voter fraud to keep African Americans from exercising their rights under the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments so that whites could regain control of state governments."
It does not suggest students need to rationalize the actions of the KKK. In fact, the guidelines for what is not essential state:
"Students do not need to know details about the origins of the Klan and other groups such as the Knights of the White Camellia, or details about their methods of intimidation. Although students do not need to memorize a definition of terrorism, they should understand that terrorism is a term used to describe violence or other harmful acts committed or threatened against citizens by groups of persons for political or ideological goals."
The Facebook post from a student's uncle received nearly 300 comments and was shared over 500 times. It also generated mixed responses to the assignment. Some people agreed that it was inappropriate and called for Roberts' termination:
"This is crazy she needs to be terminated"
"Teacher teaching hate this needs to be stopped"
"They are to (sic) young to be taught this"
"What in the world......"
One commenter identified herself as a mother whose children used to attend Oak Pointe and said, "we had a race issue with this school before."
One man suggested that the assignment was meant to foster critical thinking skills.
"Coming from a family who's parents grew up in Charleston, SC during the Civil Rights movement they've (more so my father than my mother) always presented me with questions like these to prepare me for the world as a African American man living in America even in elementary school," he wrote, in part.
Cooper, the student's uncle who made the post, responded, "There has to be better ways than this assignment. This assignment didn't accomplish that."
Another man wrote, "Y'all are f*cking stupid. She's trying to reach your kids how to get the bigger picture not justifying the actions of the kkk. She's asking that if you were there, in that time, as a member of the kkk, what justifies your actions toward African Americans. And how regardless of the situation it was wrong."
A user responded, "I'm just wondering .. what should some of the children's responses be? If you were that age what would your response be? The issue is there is no justification for what that party did to African Americans so what could these kids possibly come up with? Do you feel like it the teacher is saying there is some form of justification to their actions? #healthydiscussionplease."
Irmo, S.C., where Oak Pointe is located, is located just outside of Columbia. Its population is about 64 percent white, 27.5 percent Black, 5.5 percent Latino, 1.8 percent two or more races, 1.6 percent Asian, and less than one percent American Indian as well as Native Hawaiian.
Questions asking how comfortable students are around Blacks, Muslims, gays and other groups sparked a debate on how to teach about racism in schools — if at all.
Roberts is not the first teacher to be penalized for a racial school assignment. Earlier this year a Florida teacher was fired after giving her middle school students an assignment asking how they would feel around certain racial, religious and other groups of people.
Questions ask students to rate 1 to 4 how comfortable they are in certain situations, with 1 being "Not Comfortable at All" and 4 being "Completely Comfortable."
Scenarios listed include:
A group of young Black men are walking toward you on the street.
A fellow RA is paraplegic.
Your new suitemates are Mexican.
Your women studies instructor is a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf and full length robe.
The young man sitting next to you on the airplane is Arab.
A friend invites you to go to a gay bar.
A homeless man approaches you and asks for change.
Your family buys a home in a predominantly Black neighborhood.
"It''s like a riot out here."
A woman dubbed #GasStationGail called the police on a group of peaceful Black protesters, which included children, as they denounced violence in their Charleston community outside of a local gas station.
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"Should I go work for the KKK and try to help them not be so racist? Probably not," Rye stated.
The absence of diversity in the President Trump's administration has been a subject of ongoing debate.
In an interview on Thursday with "The Breakfast Club," a radio show based in New York City, Angela Rye, an attorney, political commentator and a leader of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, implied that the predominantly white, White House is intentional.
"This is the least diverse White House in decades," Rye said. "They are definitely trying to bring it back to the real white house."
According to an analysis from The New York Times, Trump's cabinet contains more white men than that of the last six presidents. Trump's 24-member advisory body has four women and four minorities.
The radio show hosts asked Rye if Black people should aspire to work in the White House to try and bring about change.
Rye responded: "Should I go work for the KKK and try to help them not be so racist? Probably not."
Trump's racism has been well documented, from calling immigrants "animals," "criminals," and "rapists," to his "sh**hole countries" comment about African countries, to saying Maxine Waters has a "low IQ," and calling Black athletes "sons of bitches."
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said she "can't guarantee" that Trump has never used a racial epithet, yet also said the White House values diversity, and is trying to increase it.
After being pressed by reporters to give numbers of Black staffers in the West Wing, Sanders said, "I'm not going to do a count — the same way I'm not going to do a sit-down and count up the [number of Black] staffers that are in your news organizations."
In April, the White House drew backlash for its lack of diversity after releasing a photo of spring interns who appeared to be all white.
Obama's White House had seven women and 10 minorities in his first 22-member Cabinet, including Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor who sat in the West Wing, in many meetings including the situation room.
That's 32% female and 45% minorities for Obama, and 17% female and minorities for Trump.
Of Trump's White House: "There's not a single Black person shaping policy, sitting in the White House," said Rye. "Steven Miller, a bigot, is shaping immigration policy."
"I had more people at my niece's baby shower than this," said a counter-protester.
White supremacists gathering for the Unite the Right 2 rally on Sunday in Washington, D.C., showed up 40 strong. Meanwhile, thousands of people met in the city prepared for a counter-protest.
Racism rears its head in an integrated neighborhood. Where is it safe?
Symbols of Black Lives Matter and the "Black Panther" movie on Hubert Roberts' truck made it a target for vandals on Juneteenth in Clio, Mich. The N-word was painted in white on one side, "Wite Pride" on the other side, swastikas spread around, tires slashed and red shoelaces hung from his mirrors, an old KKK tactic.
An appeals court denied white supremacist Dylann Roof's request for new legal counsel on the basis of their ethnicities.
Convicted murderer and white supremacist Dylann Roof was denied his request to replace his attorneys, who he referred to as his "political and biological enemies" on the basis of their ethnicities.
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"I was just mostly shocked and I wanted to ask them why they did it," said Kylan Smallwood, the team's quarterback and only Black varsity player.
Five football players at Creston Community High School in a predominantly white Iowa town chose to wear white hoods evoking the Ku Klux Klan, wave a Confederate flag and burn a cross, then take a photo and share it on social media. The racist picture has gone viral, and the students have been kicked off the team.
An art collective created the display in "protest of white nationalist uprising in the United States."
INDECLINE, an activist artist collective, created eight Ku Klux Klan effigies wearing clown costumes underneath KKK robes and hanged them from a single tree in Richmond's Joseph Bryan Park to protest white supremacy. An effigy wore a placard that read: "If Attacked By a Mob of Clowns, Go for the Juggler."
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The president can't tell the difference between George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Here's the difference.
Confederate statues are a rallying point for today's neo-Nazis and white separatists. President Trump confirmed this by making it a central point of his meltdown in the Trump Tower lobby earlier this week.
The difference between George Washington and Robert E. Lee is taught in elementary school history lessons. But here is some history that you weren't taught: George Washington and his wife Martha Custis both came to their marriage owning enslaved people. As was common in those days, enslaved people from both sides of the family intermarried and children were born enslaved on the plantation. Washington did not allow the families of his enslaved people to be broken up. In his will, he requested some of his land be sold to fund training and emancipation for his enslaved people. The Custis family reneged on the provisions of his will after his death.
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Robert E. Lee was a relative of Martha Custis and, through inheritance, became the owner of a large plantation in Virginia near Washington, D.C. At the beginning of the Civil War, the aged senior general of our Army, General Scott, asked Lee to lead the Union Army. Lee declined and went back home to lead the Confederate Army. He was a brilliant general and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Union Army soldiers in well-led battles.
As casualties mounted, where to bury the dead soldiers became an issue. The Quartermaster General of the Army, General Meigs, decided to start burying people around a mansion in Virginia named Arlington. It was Lee's home. He ordered burials to start around the house. He is reported to have said at the time, "I don't know who is going to win this, but that bastard is not going to be able to come home."
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At the end of the war, the Lee family sued the federal government for return of its land. It won, and the portion of Arlington that was not already used as a cemetery was given back to the Lee family. That land was housing a Freedman's Village — a place where emancipated Black people were learning a trade. So the emancipated enslaved people were thrown out in favor of a traitor to our nation, on the altar of racism and bigotry.
Most of the statues honoring Confederate traitors were erected during the (Woodrow Wilson endorsed) Ku Klux Klan revival of the early 20th century (there were 3 million KKK members in the 1920s) and again during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s-60s. They are monuments of resistance to Black liberation. Lee did not believe that there should be statues to honor Confederate soldiers. Please do not entertain any talk of "heritage" that does not include the "heritage" of the 55 percent of Black Americans who still live in the South.
Slavery is the "original sin" of our nation. The founders failed to overcome Southern planters' financial interests at the beginning of our country (enslaved people were the top financial asset of Southern landowners). Instead of eliminating slavery, as Benjamin Franklin advocated for, we had to fight the Civil War to end it. Proportional to today's population, 3 million people died in that war.
Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin, John Adams — all flawed men, as we are all flawed. But there is a vast difference between monuments to the founders of our country and monuments to people who rebelled against our country. Our president knows the difference; we all do. He is afraid of losing the core of his support — the kind of people who use the n-word at home.
Our Constitution is the longest-lived constitution in known human history. This country has liberated billions of people. We have never been perfect; we will never be perfect. But there is a reason why our GDP per capita is the leader in the world — human rights. We must fight to become better, every day.
The mayor of Baltimore did it right — take the statues down in the middle of the night without fanfare. What I wish she also did was melt them down so they can never be used as a rallying point for hate.
We saw in Charlottesville the power of symbols and the power of hate. It is time for all good Americans to rally to the cause of eliminating those symbols — all statues, or buildings named for confederate "heroes," street names — they all have to go. No German Jewish child has to go to Hitler High School. I've read that a Russian general used the top of Hitler's skull as an ashtray — until he smashed it into dust, knowing that the artifact had immense power among the people that caused his countrymen millions of untold deaths.
President Trump must go as well. We need to hold the Republican Party responsible for everything that happens after today. I'm all in favor of saying "we all make mistakes" and moving on. But now that those mistakes are as clear as day, it is time to rectify them. Trump must go, and the Republicans are responsible for making this happen. Tell us there was a medical emergency and he must resign to get treatment. Mint a gold medal the size of a manhole cover with "Best president ever" on it and give him a photoshopped picture of his face on Mount Rushmore. Whatever it takes. Get rid of him. Now. The planet doesn't have time for Mueller to finish his job.
And let's be very clear, those standing with him are guilty from this point on.