Asked To Name 'Good Reasons For Slavery,' A Fourth-Grader Nailed His Response

Afterwards, he wrote, “I am proud to be black because we are strong and brave.”

Trameka Brown-Berry's son Jerome took a stand when his social studies teacher at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and School in Wauwatosa, WI gave him a racially insensitive homework assignment.


As seen in a photo Brown-Berry posted to Facebook, the teacher gave students a homework assignment asking them to provide "give 3 'good' reasons for slavery and 3 bad reasons."

On his worksheet, Jerome drew a bracket around the three bullet points for "good reasons" and wrote, "I feel there is no good reason for slavery. That's why I did not write."

Jerome listed "splitting them up from family members" and "making them do your chores and work when it's your job to do that" within the "bad reasons" portion of the worksheet. And at the bottom of the sheet, he wrote, "I am proud to be black because we are strong and brave."

After seeing the assignment the teacher sent home, Brown-Berry contacted the school. "It was the fact that she wanted my African-American son to name three good things for slavery," she told local news affiliate WESH. "That's insulting."

"Not only was my son in an awful position, but the students who weren't black [were, too] because it's that sort of mentality of not being able to see from another's perspective and only seeing your lens [that's] dangerous," she told CNN's wire service. "That's what keeps racism going."

The school issued an apology, saying the teacher didn't clearly explain the assignment to students or parents. "We understand that, as presented, the words used showed a lack of sensitivity and were offensive," the school's statement reads. "The purpose of the assignment was not, in any way, to have students argue that any slavery is acceptable — a concept that goes against our core values and beliefs about the equality and worth of people of all races."

In a Jan. 9 post on Facebook, Brown-Berry said she proposed five action steps to the school's principal: a verbal apology to the kids, a written apology to the parents, the removal of the assignment from current and future curriculum, a written statement to parents whenever sensitive topics are discussed in class, and cultural diversity/cultural competency training for the school's staff and teachers. Principal Van Dellen agreed to each of the steps, Brown-Berry added.

Van Dellen also said he would meet with Brown-Berry today, Jan. 11, but he wouldn't say if the teacher would be disciplined. But if there's a silver lining, it's that this saga was a teachable moment for Brown-Berry.

"I wanted to model for him what it means to voice your opinion and stand up for yourself and stand up for what's right," Brown-Berry told WESH. "Because that leads to change."

Cover image via Liderina / Shutterstock.


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