The portrayal of a Roman slave market at Barrington High School turned unexpectedly ugly. Reported the Barrington Courier-Review:
Parents and students attending the [performance] from Kenwood Academy, a mostly black high school on Chicago's South Side, took offense to the skit. One parent told Chicago's CBS-Ch. 2 News that "regardless as to how it was meant, it was a live slave auction. It was done in poor taste. For God's sake, it was Black History Month."
Precisely, for God's sake, it was Black History Month, and what better time than that to put on display the evils of human bondage? Some points to note:
- It was a Roman slave market. Not only were black Africans enslaved throughout history. The practice continueseven until today, as people continue to be enslaved in the Middle East and parts of Africa.
- Art and literature are an excellent vehicle to portray the evils of society, sometimes in shocking ways. Art and literature are full of moving and educational examples. One might even argue that art and literature must do so, or else they fail. If you ask me, the Barrington High School portrayal possibly didn't go far enough to describe the horrors.
- By apologizing for the portrayal, Barrington High School passed up an important "learning moment." About artistic expression. Free speech. About "can't we all get along?"
For me, this blatant attempt to silence expression strikes close to home. My historical novel, Madness: The War of 1812, includes a scene from an Alexandria, Virginia slave market. It's there to show the dehumanizing depredations of slavery--the break-up of families, the physical, emotional and mental abuse and all the rest. It's also there as part of a larger story--to tell the role of slavery and African Americans in the War of 1812, something that is even more overlooked by Americans than the war itself.
Here is a fair and honest attempt to explain why any portrayal of slavery is considered insulting. But I disagree with the hypersensitivity and, dare I say, the dishonesty of some of it. All that we've learned from this unnecessary and unwarranted opprobriums thrown at Barrington High School is that how cowardly some of us have become in the face of groundless, preposterous and cockeyed political correctness.
Read why Americans need to learn about the nation's most ignored war.
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