From The Huffington Post:
Black lives matter in textbooks, too.
Fifteen-year-old Coby Burren underscored this point when he sent his mom, Roni Dean-Burren, a photo of a page from his ninth grade World Geography textbook which wrongly described African slaves as “workers.”
Dean-Burren posted her son’s text message to her Instagram page.
“The Atlantic slave trade brought millions of workers… notice the nuanced language there,” her caption read. “Workers implies wages… yes?”
The Texas mom also posted a Facebook video where she showed that the inaccurate description was in the textbook’s “Patterns of Immigration” section.
“Immigrants, yeah, that word matters,” the mother says in the video. “‘The Atlantic slave trade between the 1500s and the 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the Southern United States to work on agricultural plantations. So it is now considered immigration.”
In the video, she also notes that the textbook said some Europeans worked as indentured servants for little to no pay but doesn’t mention anything about the forced labor African slaves endured.
“This is erasure,” Dean-Burren told The Washington Post. “This is revisionist history — retelling the story however the winners would like it told.”
Dean-Burren’s video went viral, receiving more than a million views since it was posted on Thursday. It even caught the attention of McGraw-Hill, the textbook’s publisher.
“[W]e conducted a close review of the content and agree that our language in that caption did not adequately convey that Africans were both forced into migration and to labor against their will as slaves,” McGraw-Hill posted on their Facebook page on Friday.
“We believe we can do better,” McGraw-Hill wrote. “To communicate these facts more clearly, we will update this caption to describe the arrival of African slaves in the U.S. as a forced migration and emphasize that their work was done as slave labor.”
The company stated that the changes will be reflected in the digital version immediately and in the next version of the printed textbook. However, The Washington Post notes that the next hardcopy version may not be printed for a while as the current edition of the book is brand new. Dean-Burden said she was excited the publisher took note, but felt it wasn’t enough.
“I know they can do better. They can send out a supplement. They can recall those books. Regardless of whether you’re left-leaning or right-leaning, you know that’s not really the story of slavery,” she told The Washington Post. “Minimizing slavery in any way is a way of saying those black lives, those black bodies, that black pain didn’t matter enough to give it a full description.”
We asked our resident McGraw-Hill expert The Creep in the Art Department to weigh in on this clusterfuck, but he was too busy doing backwards cartwheels naked up and down Sixth Avenue in midtown Manhattan.