Schools Scramble to Destroy Evidence of “Slave Auction” Fundraisers
Michelle Obama’s brother and his wife have sued the school their children attend for various instances of racial bias including slavery re-enactments where the children ran around the campus at night pretending to be slaves escaping the teachers who played masters.
Slavery was not a fun game. Making light of escaping slavery gives the false impression that it was an optional situation you could get out of by running along a garden path laughing all the way.
You can’t have children acting out slavery as it actually was–malnutrition, rape, 15-hour workdays, bodily mutilations, ritual humiliation, branding with a hot iron, inhuman overcrowding, family separation, physical punishment unto death, psychological torture. Though if you could, perhaps people would understand American history better.
The lawsuit has shined a spotlight on the way slavery is turned into entertainment on campuses across the country. This is sometimes for “educational” purposes such as mentioned in the lawsuit, or for fundraising purposes such as the once-ubiquitous “Slave Auctions” where a student or teacher is sold to the highest bidder for a days labor of some kind with the proceeds going to the school.
A few incidents have been the subject of most of the media attention.
The case of a high school in Faith, South Dakota where an annual slave and branding rodeo auction has been held for decades got a lot of press. There had been protests against the name for twenty years, but it was only when social media brought the practice to light that black parents were able to get the event canceled.
A teacher at the expensive private Chapel School school in Bronxville, New York was investigated by the Attorney General when she removed the black students from her classes, placed them in the hallway where they were to imagine being shackled and chained, then brought them back into the classroom where they were lined up against a wall while their white acted out buying the black students at auction.
While these have been treated as isolated incidents, the truth is both practices are common throughout the US. Recent media attention has schools scrambling to erase all trace of these events before they become the next target of honest scrutiny.
Richard E Rich Academy has assigned a secret task force to remove all records of the annual Senior Slave Day, where senior students are auctioned off for a day of service to benefit the Sexual Assault Senior Class Trip To Florida, and the Classics Day Slave Auction which benefits Latin teacher Mr. Ornery’s private slush fund for office updates, streaming subscriptions and cocktails when he chaperones the Senior Trip.
Old newsletters celebrating these events were surreptitiously removed from the archive, incriminating newspaper stories were disappeared from the library and blog posts were deleted. Following the lead of other schools, the Classics Day event was rebranded as Rent-A-Roman and the Florida fundraiser was renamed Seniority Stupidity Day.
While it is fairly easy to purge Facebook pages and remove incriminating photos from the wall, a surprising problem has been the Reddit strings devoted to this topic where contributors share the slave traditions at their schools. Richard Rich decided that the perfect person to help with the more complex doctoring of history would be lefty English teacher Mr. Leaf, who has protested slave events for years.
Mr. Leaf has long argued that the slavery reenactment events trivialize a historic atrocity and traumatize children whose relatives were enslaved. Before Senior Slave Day every year, Mr.Leaf distributes a historical account of actual slave auctions where enslaved people were paraded naked on a platform, poked and prodded by enslavers, and brutally ripped apart from their loved ones. He includes an engraving of an enslaved woman sobbing as her infant is ripped from her breast.
Over the years Richard E Rich Academy has punished Mr. Leaf for his activism on this and other causes by giving him a classroom in the building with the worst black mold problem, assigning him to coach the losing tennis team Saturday and Sunday mornings at 6 AM, and putting him on committees with the most annoying faculty.
Although Mr. Leaf feels vindicated by the fact that slave auctions are finally getting the attention they deserve, things have not gone so well for him. Richard E Rich is particularly interested in removing any trace of his protests against the slave auctions because they draw attention to racist traditions, make it clear they were not all “in good fun,” and because they contain traumatizing images of slavery that might themselves become the target of media attention.
Tasked with making the history he tried to bring to light disappear, partly to protect himself, Mr. Leaf has had to table another protest he had planned. One of the thankless jobs Mr. Leaf has been given is sexual harassment training certification seminars. For the upcoming training, Mr. Leaf had planned a roleplay re-enactment of the rape accusations against the Head of school that had been tossed out on a technicality last year and intended to as the Head to play himself.
Instead, Mr. Leaf put together a new event for Seniority Stupidity Day: Lease A Minimum Wage Worker.
Students competed in a reverse auction, starting at a full day’s wages at the state minimum and bidding downward by incorporating lengthy commutes, expensive clothing requirements, unpaid training, and wages docked for petty rule violations. Money saved on labor was contributed to Richard E Rich, which is exactly the way rich people fund their expensive private schools.
The Lease A Minumum Wage worker event was unexpectedly popular. Following the tradition of the Richard E Rich slave auction, which usually had a carnival atmosphere, the benefit got rowdy toward the end, with students throwing food and knocking over chairs.
Mr. Leaf noted with sadness that dining hall staff had to stay late to clean up the mess but were not paid overtime. In the end, Mr. Leaf decided the satire of the event was too close to reality and made the problem worse, not better. After helping the dining hall workers clean up, he took advantage of having the password to the Richard E Rich website to delete Seniority Stupidity from history.
The funds raised by the event, however, went toward a sexual assault in Florida and charges against three seniors for vandalism and drunk and disorderly conduct.