Because of the diversity of the school my children attend and the bus they ride, we’ve learned lessons we wouldn’t otherwise have learned. A few weeks ago, my kids told me about an incident on the bus with one of them and some other kids. My child was playing with another child on the bus and asked him to play a game where he has to do everything my child says. As I heard them tell me this, I cringed, knowing where this story was going.
My child (who is white) initiated a game that involved ordering another child (who is black) around for the day. This friend’s older brother also saw the problem and told his brother not to play with my children anymore. Of course, I understood why he would feel this way.
While this was an innocent mistake on my child’s part, it shows our need to learn from one another and to be surrounded by diverse voices. This year’s ROAR curriculum by Group makes a similar mistake. I don’t think that the authors sat around trying to come up with a curriculum with some racist undertones. However, I do suspect that they lacked diversity in the voices that contributed to the curriculum. Here are some problems with the curriculum:
- Day 1 – My husband points out that the VBS theme set in Africa and the decision to talk about slavery seems problematic, as does the “white rhinosaurus” Bible buddy for that day.
- Day 1 – Children are asked to pretend to be slaves like the Israelites in Egypt while being ordered around to “Get busy and make that mud. What’s the matter? Afraid of getting your hands dirty? Too bad! You’re all slaves, you know.” This will be experienced VERY differently by those with ancestors who were enslaved when compared to those whose ancestors were slave holders.
- Day 1 – “When life is unfair… God is good.” Children are encouraged to come up with examples of things that are unfair. The leader then says, “Things don’t always go our way, do they?” The comparison is then made to the Israelites being enslaved in Egypt. My fifteen-year-old put it well when she said that some unfairness is just part of life, such as your sibling having to do less chores than you. However, other unfairness, like slavery, is a result of sin and unjust behavior. While it’s true that all experience unfairness and that God is always good, comparing the two does not help create the bridges we need for racial reconciliation in our nation.
Again, I don’t think this was intentional, but it shows the cultural blindness we can have. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” You’ve now been informed, so commit to doing better.
Thanks to @shannondingle for bringing this to my attention. Here’s a link to her twitter thread about this issue. https://twitter.com/ShannonDingle/status/1137121450052194304