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Commentary: Call slavery what it is – slavery

A group of Texas educators proposed referencing to slavery as "involuntary relocation" in second-grade teachings.

AUSTIN, Texas — At KVUE, we don't normally share my commentaries during the 5 p.m. news. They are usually saved for Texas This Week. But we decided to make an exception because, this week, I came across a headline so ludicrous I had a hard time believing it was true.

The Texas Tribune brought to our attention that a group of Texas educators charged with advising the State Board of Education on curriculum wants to make some changes to the social studies curriculum for second-graders.

They want the children to "compare journeys to America, including voluntary Irish immigration and involuntary relocation of African people during colonial times."

Involuntary relocation? Is that what we're calling slavery in 2022? Haven't we already had this discussion, back in 2015 during the Texas textbook scandal where slaves were referred to as immigrant workers? Do we need to talk about this again?

There are so many things fundamentally wrong with whitewashing slavery down to "involuntary relocation" that I don't even know where to begin.

I could spend all day pointing out the flaws but I have a limited amount of time. So, let me make just two points.

RELATED: State education board members push back on proposal to use “involuntary relocation” to describe slavery

Referring to people who were kidnapped from their native land, forced onto ships where they were stacked on top of one another, enduring unspeakable, unimaginable conditions to be taken thousands of miles away from their homes, across the ocean, not to relocate and start new lives but to be sold as property, seen as subhuman and subject to every form of abuse – physical, sexual, medical, emotional – the effects of which we still see to this very day. 

Calling that "involuntary relocation" is not just false and disrespectful, it is dangerous.

Never in history have we seen something so horrific and inhumane as the African slave trade. The number of people kidnapped, the distance they were taken, the treatment.

And that leads to my second point: Second-graders – 7- and 8-year-old children – understand the concept of kidnapping. They also understand the concept of slavery, or forced labor.

They can handle it. After all, these are the same children that have to do active shooter drills in school because they don't know if their classroom will be the next Robb Elementary School.

They can handle the truth, they can learn history, because that is the point of sending children to school, right? For them to learn the truth. Facts. Teach facts and let parents handle the feelings.

Now, thankfully, the Board of Education told this group to revisit their word choice.

I can think of dozens of age-appropriate phrases for second-graders, or we can just go with the universal word used to describe how the majority of African people got to the U.S. in colonial times – slavery.

Not involuntary relocation. Slavery.


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