A Black educator from Cleveland, Ohio, gave a white student quite the virtual talking-to after he outrageously wrote that slavery was “actually a positive thing” because it taught Black people to fight for who they are.
Adjunct professor Michelle Smith responded to the student’s ridiculous claim on her blog Saturday, Dec. 17, saying white people obviously need a White History Month to teach them about the irreparable harm slavery did to African-Americans.
Smith began The Bluest I blog post by reprinting a portion of the student’s essay, which he titled, “Slavery Changed America for the Better.” In it, the first-year pupil explained that enslavement helped Black people learn to stand up for themselves.
“In the end, slavery was actually a positive thing for the world because people learned to fight for who they are,” the young man wrote before explaining the ways enslaved Africans were controlled by white masters. They included being prohibited from reading and writing, horrific working and living conditions and the rape of enslaved women.
“However, slaves would use the underground railroad [sic] to escape and many did,” he continued. “This simple act of courage changed the world. This started the beginning of a long flight for equal rights because slavery started segregation. Racism really came about after slavery, however, slavery was something that really opened up people’s eyes.”
The student’s preposterous statements about the centuries-long period of Black suffering led Smith to call for the implementation of White History Month, which many white Twitter users wish for during Black History Month anyway. However, Smith wasn’t advocating for a celebration of white accomplishments. Instead, she wanted it to point out the damage whites have done to Black people.
“Maybe if we provided them an encyclopedic number of facts about how white people captured Africans,” Smith explained. “Transported them to the Caribbean, made them [go] through torture and starvation, transported them to America, sold them, broke them, raped them, separated their families, murdered them when they attempted to escape, maimed them when they stole food or read or wrote something, while the whole time justifying their actions with decontextualized and misrepresentative religious doctrine and pseudo-science, these young white people would know better than to write s— like, ‘a privilege that slaves did have that owners and masters actually encouraged was reproducing.’ “
Smith went on to detail the way enslaved Africans were bred like dogs to produce high-performing offspring and denounced the student’s “almost complete lack of understanding of the integral role of anti-blackness in the development of American culture and white identity politics.” Then, she offered some honest readings about enslavement for white parents to give their children — from elementary school to college-age.
“And tell your young people — from a logical standpoint — they cannot argue that slavery made America ‘better’ because ‘better’ is a comparative term,” Smith concluded. “And we can only extrapolate — we can’t know — what America might’ve been if there hadn’t been slavery. Although I wish to God that we could.”