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My 5-Year Old Black Daughter As A Confederate? Forget Gov. McDonnell. What Was Her School Thinking.

The governor of Virginia recently decided it was a good idea to issue a proclamation marking April as Confederate History Month. What was he thinking?  That decision has turned into a hornet’s nest of CNN proportions and he was forced to feign contriteness and re-issue his statement.  You expect that kind of stupidity in politics. But you can imagine my shock when I found myself in the middle of a confederate clamor at my daughter’s school, of all places.


A few years ago my daughter attended kindergarten and first grade at an exclusive (expensive), mostly-white (expensive), private school (expensive).  The headmaster, who was retiring, was an avid Civil War buff, and there were several events planned throughout the school year to honor his tenure and service to the school.


I attended most and did my working-mom-with-a-one-hour-commute best to be supportive.  Toward the end of the school year, the faculty and PTA announced that the annual Field Day event, would have a Civil War theme with the students, even the kindergarteners, playing either as The Confederates or as the Union army. Seriously?  


This is where things went too far.


I’m all about celebrating history. And can even stomach the parts that I don’t like.  But I really couldn’t see my five-year old brown daughter playing on the Confederate team.  And I thought it was extremely insensitive and disrespectful to the less than 10 African American children in the whole K-8 school to have them play games under the banner of a group that wanted their ancestors to remain enslaved.


Some people may take lightly what the Confederacy stood for, but I don’t think educators should be on that list. I arranged a meeting the headmaster.


I calmly expressed my concern over the field day theme and stated that as the school strives to give students “teachable moments”, I was concerned about the lesson they would get from playing games as Confederates.  I also reminded him that the Civil War was a war to maintain slavery—a system that denied African Americans their human rights. Is this really the right backdrop for relay races and kick ball?


He said the war was over state rights.

Yes, I said, a state’s right to keep slaves. 


He said I was being overly sensitive and looking too deeply into it.

Really? Seems like somebody didn’t think deeply enough, I said as I tried my best to remember my NYU and Columbia vocabulary, even though I felt my Brooklyn, NY roots bubbling to the surface.


At the end of the extremely frustrating conversation, it was clear I was getting nowhere. I respectfully let him know that my daughter would not be attending school that day to participate in the disgraceful field day. He just smiled and said that was fine.


I walked out of that office feeling voiceless and invisible, and left it alone.


Ever since then, I’ve regretted not going one step further. I’m a journalist, for crying out loud, who could have summoned three newspapers and a television station before I left the school parking lot. But I didn’t.


After working so hard to try to “fit in” to the school culture, the other moms, the PTA, and the board, I chose not to fight that battle, especially because of my daughter.  She was already feeling uncomfortable about so many questions about her hair being braided in corn rows.  It’s another one of those Black mom things, that not everyone will understand.  The kind of trade-offs that often frustrates me.


Although my child was getting an excellent education, it was clear on that day, that the headmaster didn’t care about all of the students (that was her last year there). And that’s the problem with Gov. Bob McDonnell. While throwing a political bone to the Sons of Confederate Vets, he forgot that he represents all Virginians—even the African American ones.


I’m just glad to see that he wasn’t able to get away with that kind of disrespect.  


Note: Please check out the OMG! responses to this blog post on Momlogic.com . Our voices are needed!


One example:

"I think that maybe there is a double standard on behalf of the author. How is it not ok for her daughter to participate in something confederately themed but yet my daughter is required to attend school during a WHOLE month when they teach black history?

– Angela




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