As the world celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the great drum major for justice would be appalled by the lingering effects of racism, bigotry and discrimination that are so pervasive from state to state.
The retrograde attacks on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, with conservative Republicans doing all they can to revive Jim Crow laws, would deeply disappoint King, and he would be terribly upset to learn that recently in his home state of Georgia, young school children were exposed to reprehensible tests with overtures of slavery imbedded in them.
“Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?” and “If Frederick [perhaps referring to Frederick Douglass, the great statesman who escaped from slavery] got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week? In two weeks?”
These are two questions that were posed to students at an elementary school in Gwinnett, Ga., and that have incensed parents and activists. While the Beaver Ridge Elementary School Principal Jose DeJesus and district officials responded immediately to the situation, it was still a troubling matter for many parents and community activists, who felt that further steps of rectification were necessary.
“That’s how people learn from one another and that’s how we all grow,” Jennifer Falk told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, explaining the relationship between teachers and students. She was among the activists calling for an apology and diversity training for the teachers and district officials.
A district spokesperson said the test should have been vetted by district supervisors and that such a policy would now be enforced. “It was a poorly written question,” the spokesperson said.
Beaver Ridge Elementary School has an enrollment of 1,200 students, with 62 percent being Latino or Hispanic; 24 percent African-American; and 5 percent white. There were no figures on the race of the teachers, though it can be presumed that the teachers who administered the test were white.