White Guilt cartoon falls flat with Virginia parents

I suppose somebody thought this was a good idea in the hallowed halls of Glen Allen High School in Virginia. The goal was apparently to introduce students to the idea of racial equality and sensitivity, but the five year old video they chose to make the point wound up spurring a different sort of discussion around the dinner tables of many families in the district. Details from the Washington Post.

A Virginia school district has banned the use of an educational video about racial inequality after some parents complained that its messaging is racially divisive.

The four-minute, animated video — “Structural Discrimination: The Unequal Opportunity Race” — was shown last week to students at an assembly at Glen Allen High School, in Henrico County, as a part of the school’s Black History Month program…

“The Henrico School Board and administration consider this to be a matter of grave concern,” School Board Chair Micky Ogburn said in a statement released to The Washington Post. “We are making every effort to respond to our community. It is our goal to prevent the recurrence of this type of event. School leaders have been instructed not to use the video in our schools.”

“In addition, steps are being taken to prevent the use of racially divisive materials in the future. We do apologize to those who were offended and for the unintended impact on our community.”

Before going any further, let’s take a moment and watch it for ourselves. (Video runs about 4 minutes.)

The first thing to note here is that this isn’t some new video which was just published as part of the Black Lives Matter movement or any other social unrest situations. This cartoon was produced in 2010 by the African American Policy Forum and, at least according to them, has been shown in schools “hundreds of thousands of times.” (I checked with a couple of parents in my area this weekend and they’d never heard of it, but then again, kids don’t always tell their parents the minutia of every single thing that goes on at school.) In any event, it’s clearly been around for a while.

In a way, it’s kind of a shame that the makers of the video had to take such a ham handed approach. I’ll be the first to admit that there are some neighborhoods around the country with very little in the way racial diversity and kids actually can benefit from being prepared to deal with that reality when they get out into the wider world. Sadly, this cartoon is so over the top in portraying every negative stereotype about “white privilege” that it comes off as completely racist in the opposite direction from what we’re used to seeing. The biggest hindrance here, at least as I was watching it, is that it does nothing but foment anger and resentment by portraying any perceived barriers to achievement as intentional, diabolical plans by “the man” to hold down minorities.

Rather than opening a dialogue about the struggles which minorities obviously endured in past generations and potential lasting effects from those disparities, the video seems to be aimed at making white students feel guilty and minority students feel aggrieved. If this is what passes for racial and cultural assimilation in our nation’s schools, it’s no wonder that racial tensions in America are currently getting worse rather than better.


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