The Disturbing Self-Hate That Is Taught In a 2nd Grade English Class | Opinion

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Photo: Bailey Wright

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It was a Friday, my day off from working the news desk at Breaking911. I had just finished lunch in the kitchen where my daughter was video-conferencing with her second grade class. I heard the teacher tell the children to remind their parents to swing by the school to pick-up some learning material.

My super hot wife Joanne, on her way home from work, stopped by the school to gather the material. She arrived at home and I looked through the books. The first book was Martin Luther King Jr. & The March on Washington. I thought to myself, “Great. She will learn the inspirational and vital story of the civil rights movement.” My issue with this book is it literally teaches children that blacks and whites are not treated equally. In my life they are. In my home they are. In my daughter’s mind, we are equal.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington (Penguin Young Readers)
Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington (Penguin Young Readers)

The next book was Ruby Bridges Goes To School, a great piece of history about a 6-year-old girl who helped end segregation at her school in Louisiana in 1960.

The third book was titled, Separate Is Never Equal, authored by a man named Duncan Tonatiuh. It is a story about Sylvia Mendez. I was unaware of this amazing story.

Mendez bravely fought to end segregation in education in California. She was the child at the center of the landmark 1947 case, Mendez vs. Westminster, in which her parents and neighbors fought against segregated education for children of Mexican descent in southern California, a case that banned segregation in California public schools and paved the way for the national ban on segregated schools in Brown vs. Board of Education seven years later.

What an inspiring and little-known piece of history.

Yet, when I read the children’s book by Tonatiuh, I did not find it appropriate for my 7-year-old daughter to read. Why? My wife and I have raised our children to believe that all people are equal. We have also taught them about racism and that there was a dark time in America when people were not equal.

This book struck me as teaching my child that all white people are racist. More troubling than that, the book seems to insinuate to children of color that all white people are racist or against them in some way.

For example, the very first page reads, Sylvia had on her black shoes. They were shiny-new. Her hair was perfectly parted in two long trenzas. It was her first day at Westminster school. The halls were crowded with students. She was looking for her locker when a young white boy pointed at her and yelled, “Go back to the Mexican school! You don’t belong here!.”

Duncan Tonatiuh

Now, this may have actually happened to Ms. Mendez. I do not know. But what is this teaching my child, who has known nothing but love and tolerance toward others her entire life?

Some of you reading this may say, “It’s history!” or “It happened! Your daughter should know that Mexican-Americans were oppressed by white people in Southern California.” This is true. She should know this story. I only take issue with how the author conveys the story through divisive words and illustration.

In the book ‘Separate Is Never Equal,’ Mexican-American children sit in filth and eat while flies swarm their heads. / Illustration by Duncan Tonatiuh
Duncan Tonatiuh

I reached out to my sister, who for the record, is a staunch liberal. I texted her the disturbing illustrations and text from the book to her. Her first response was “I think this is super extreme. I mean if we don’t teach racism kids wouldn’t even know about it. I do disagree with this.”

At this point, I knew I wasn’t overreacting. So I tweeted a few photos and what I was feeling off the top of my head. In minutes, the tweet had been shared hundreds of times. By the next morning the tweet was shared over 7,000 times.

Now I knew I wasn’t crazy. The overwhelming amount of responses agreed that this “English Lesson” was not appropriate for a second grader.

So I dug deeper.

I went to Google, as one does, and a search of author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh described him as being interested in “social justice.” Tonatiuh, a Mexican-American, has won many awards for his work.

During my research on the book I found so troubling, I came across a story from the University of Pittsburgh titled; “How a Facebook Post Sparked an Anti-Racist Book Drive.” This story describes how a woman named Jennifer Iriti, a research scientist at the college, spread a viral booklist for children regarding race.

Here’s an excerpt from that article:

“In my work in literacy and equity, it’s always been centered on making sure minoritized students have access to materials that reflect them; that they can see themselves in that work,” said Iriti, who also serves as a faculty fellow for the Center for Urban Education in Pitt’s School of Education. “And it’s equally important for white students to see people of color through the materials they use in school.”

With her many educator contacts in mind, Iriti clicked “share” on her Facebook page and wrote: “Hey, teacher friends, here are some great books to think about.”

She never would’ve imagined what would happen next.

“One of my teacher friends commented that she was embarrassed to say she’s never heard of any of the books’ titles and said she was going to purchase some of the books,” said Iriti. “And then, another one of my friends chimed in and said, ‘I’ll buy a book for each of ten teachers who will use them in their classrooms.’”

That friend was Celina Farabaugh, a mother of two in South Fayette, Pennsylvania, who knows Iriti through volunteer work outside of Pitt.

“I had been reading quite a bit about ways to be an anti-racist, and one of the suggestions I read was to donate an anti-racist book to a teacher,” said Farabaugh. “So, when Jen posted a list of suggested books, I felt called to take this small step.” Her first donation: “Separate is Never Equal,” by Duncan Tonatiuh, to a teacher in the Keystone Oaks School District, located about 10 miles from downtown Pittsburgh.


I thought to myself, “Anti-racist? What the hell is that?” So perhaps this is how the book found it’s way into my daughter’s virtual classroom. (It is worth noting this book was not a random book plucked from the library shelf but mandatory reading for the entire class.)

So I did more research on the term Anti-Racism. I quickly learned this seemingly new terminology was linked to the Black Lives Matter movement.

White people who feel they are guilty for the atrocities of their ancestors now claim to be “anti-racist” instead of just genuinely not being racist. If this sounds completely unintelligent, that’s because it is.

The Harvard Graduate School of Education has released a video titled, “Education Now: Practicing Antiracism in Your School.” It proclaims: The disparities that students face today, magnified during the COVID-19 outbreak, are rooted in systemic racism that has been ingrained in education for generations. But even as we reevaluate the system, we must also recognize the critical impact of individual educators who are committed to the fight against racism and injustice…

Another headline I found during the search was this from MinnPost: “Stay in public schools: The anti-racism we need from white families during the pandemic.” In this article it says white America owes black students a large educational debt, and funding public schools is one part of paying back that debt.

In short, they are asking for money.

These new phrases and words that creep up in society are not by accident. So-called social justice advocates do not really strive for equal justice at all. There is a much larger agenda.

Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that black lives should actually matter. It is a political movement. Their website and mission statement actually advocates for the dismantling of the traditional family. Instead, BLM wants a so-called “community” or “village” to raise your children.

BLM’s website says, “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”

It continues to demean a Heterosexuality. They call this “heteronormative thinking.”

As someone who is knee-deep in politics on a daily basis, I knew my children would face a certain degree of indoctrination in public schools. But I naively thought my second grader would not be spoon fed this garbage so soon.

My wife and I have decided to remove our daughter from Metro Nashville Public Schools and are now exploring private school options. While the financial aspect will be a challenge, we are determined to give our kids the opportunity to learn about civil rights and racism in a constructive way. Perhaps a history class and not a story book that pits our children against each other. After all, they are our greatest asset.

I believe that the racial tension we see in America today is because our nation has yet to begin to heal.

Our country is young.

Our shameful and hideous scars are still fresh.

Now is the time to move along and focus on what brings us together. — Not dwell on the evils of our past.

(c) 2020 Breaking911 – T. Grant Benson / @GrantB911

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