Racial hypersensitivity at Barrington High School

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 continuescargoeven 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 1812includes 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.

auction houseHere 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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  • I'm guessing that the portrayal of a slave auction, something that is a part of American history in our not-so-distant past, made some people very uncomfortable. It is not politically correct to pretend that it never happened, it is just history denial. I don't know if there's a Jewish history month here, but if there is, all showings of Shindler's List should be banned during that month.

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    Where were the adults when this skit was planned and rehearsed? I attended a high school pep rally )home coming) where different teams duid skits, most the usual lame stuff. However, the girls swim team did what could only be described as a strip/bump and grind. I mentioned attending the rally at a PTA meeting and the crowd reaction to the show. Parents where aghast their daughters had participated in the show and stunned a parent had managed to go. I countered my daughter was in the marching band and I went to all the games so I just walked in and suggested they might want to do the same in the future. You don't have to be a "helicopter" parent, just an aware one.

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