A high school that’s been under fire for showing an affirmative-action video that some parents found racially divisive has apologized this week, pulling the video from its curriculum.
The four-minute animated video, “Structural Discrimination: The Unequal Opportunity Race” (see above), was shown during Black History Month assemblies at the Glen Allen High School in Henrico County, Va., last week, prompting complaints that it was inaccurate and that it amounted to white shaming, reports the Washington Post and TheBlaze.
It was created a decade ago for the African American Policy Forum, a racial-justice think tank, and features several runners on a track — with black runners facing obstacles that signify issues like discrimination, poor schooling, and the school-to-prison pipeline, while white runners run free and, in one case, get carried along a moving track signifying privilege and connections. A message at the end notes that affirmative action “helps level the playing field.”
Don Blake, whose granddaughter attends Glen Allen High School, according to WWBT, had a problem with the video. “They are sitting there watching a video that is dividing them up from a racial standpoint,” he said. “It’s a white guilt kind of video. I think somebody should be held accountable for this.”
Kenny Manning, who goes to the high school, told WRIC that students had mixed reactions. “A lot of people thought it was offensive to white people and made them feel bad about being privileged,” he said. “Others thought that it was good to get the information out there. There is oppression going on in the world, and that needs to be looked at with a magnifying glass, I guess.”
In response to complaints, Superintendent Patrick C. Kinlaw delivered a statement on Wednesday, which said, “While we as educators do not object to difficult and constructive conversations about American history and racial discourse past and present, we understand why many people feel this video in particular was not the best way to deliver such an important lesson.”
“In our community, while we do encourage open and frank discussions, perpetuating a racial divide, stereotypes or exclusion of any kind is not acceptable,” School Board Chairwoman Michelle F. “Micky” Ogburn said in the district’s statement. “The Henrico School Board and administration consider this to be a matter of grave concern. We are making every effort to respond to our community. It is our goal to prevent the recurrence of this type of event.”
Ogburn added that administrators have prohibited use of the video. “In addition, steps are being taken to prevent the use of racially divisive materials in the future,” she said. “We do apologize to those who were offended and for the unintended impact on our community.”
Not all were onboard with the apology, though, according to WRIC, which reported that the chairman of Henrico’s Board of Supervisors, Tyrone E. Nelson, disagreed. “Not every African-American deals with every systemic issue, just like not every Caucasian-American is part of a family that has wealth passed down generation to generation,” said Nelson, adding that banning the video was counterproductive. “I think when we cut certain things off, you cut the conversations off, and I don’t think we can heal and move forward as a community.”
Henrico County’s black-white racial breakdown, according to 2014 census data, is 59.3 percent white and 30.1 percent black or African-American. The assemblies were reportedly planned as a reaction to a recent incident at the school, during which a racist song — a parody of Disney’s DuckTales theme song — was played over the loudspeakers at an October football game in which the visiting team was from a mostly black high school.
In reaction to the backlash, Luke Harris, co-founder of the African-American Policy Forum, told the Washington Post, “The anger is a reaction that we expect to get from some Americans, because we live in a society that doesn’t have honest discourse about race,” Harris said. “Our society is as heterogeneous as any on the planet, but American social history from a multicultural, multiracial perspective is just something that people have not been exposed to. When someone highlights that message, some people go after the messenger.”