February 3, 2023

(The Conversation is an independent and not-for-profit source for news, analysis, and commentary from academic experts.)

(THE TALK) In an otherwise normal football season, two California high schools abruptly canceled the remaining games for the same reason. Players from both teams engaged in annoying racist acts.

In October 2022, Amador High School in Sutter Creek ended its season after school officials learned that several players had joined a Snapchat called “Kill the Blacks.”

In the nearby town of Yuba, members of the River Valley High School football team produced and filmed a modern day slave auction.

In the film, three teammates – all young black men – were put up for sale.

“They needed someone else to do the video, and since she was the only black person in the dressing room, they all turned to me,” said one of the black students. “I made it clear I didn’t want that and tried to leave but couldn’t.”

Dressed in their underwear and eyes downcast, the three were led through the dressing room and seated on an auction block. At least one of the black teenagers had a belt around his neck that was a noose.

Her white and Hispanic teammates are feverishly bidding for her. Even through the lens of the video camera, the excitement and frenzy of the “apparent” slavers could be felt.

Many are upset with black youth for participating in their own humiliation. I understand that. But as I explain in my recent book, Bodies Out of Place: Theorizing Anti-Blackness in US Society, I also understand that “public ceremonies of degradation are designed to humiliate black people and discourage them from living their fullest.” to live humanity as full citizens”.

Less than 1% of students at River Valley High – 31 out of a total of 1,801 – identify as black.

These numbers make Black students extremely visible and invisible at the same time.

In my view, the slave auction functioned as a perverted public performance, designed not only to reinforce the subordinate status of black students in their own minds, but also to signal the same to viewers.

What is behind the mockery

A Boston University teaching guide defines the “hidden curriculum” as an amorphous collection of implicit cultural messages of the dominant culture. These unwritten rules reinforce an often unspoken social order in which people of color submit.

The hidden curriculum refers not only to unwritten rules, but also to “unspoken expectations” that serve as “unofficial norms, behaviors, and values.” These norms are institutionalized. As sociologists Glenn Bracey II and Wendy Leo Moore write, “Although the norms are white, they are seldom labeled as such.”

Mock slave auctions are not uncommon.

In May 2022, white middle school students in North Carolina’s Chatham School District staged a sale by staging their black classmates’ sale.

One of the parents, Ashley Palmer, posted on Facebook that her son had been “sold” by his classmates.

“His friend ‘went for $350,’ and another student was the slave master because he ‘knew how to use it,'” Palmer wrote. “We even have a video of students harmonizing the N-word. Since when are kids so blatantly racist?”

In another incident, students at Newberg High School in Oregon participated in a year-long virtual slave auction called “Slave Trade,” which was uncovered by their parents in 2021. In the chat, they targeted black students and used homophobic and racist slurs while joking about how much they would pay for their black classmates.

Those patterns continued in 2021, when Texas students formed a social media group called “N***** Auction” and pretended to auction off their black peers.

Not all auctions take place on virtual platforms.

For example, in 2016 in Barrington, Illinois, a “mock slave auction” was hosted by Barrington High School students to create what they termed the “school spirit” during an event designed to bring together students from Chicago and the suburbs.

Why Everything Matters

Group performances not only serve as a unifying experience among members, but also reinforce an imagined social hierarchy dating back to the turn-of-the-century Jim Crow days and legal segregation.

These performances convey a message about a sense of belonging. Without using the specific words, the plots, in the most blatant imagery, suggest to black students that their status is marginal at best.

It’s important to connect the past and the present, as Doreen Osumi, Superintendent of the Yuba City Unified School District, did in a statement from CNN.

“Reenacting a slave-sale prank tells us that we have a lot of work to do with our students so they can differentiate between intent and effect,” Osumi wrote. “Maybe they thought this skit was funny, but it’s not; it is unacceptable and requires us to deal honestly and thoroughly with issues of systemic racism.”

Black students at River Valley High School apologize for their part in mock slave auction.

Each received a three-day school suspension — a sentence that proved harsher than that of some of her non-Black peers, according to Betty Williams, president of the Greater Sacramento NAACP. Although it’s unclear what the penalties were for white students, Williams said they “were not fair in their distribution.”

I understand William’s frustration. In my opinion, one could argue that the onlookers were no more guilty than the hundreds and sometimes thousands of white people who packed picnic baskets and gathered after church to watch a black man being lynched.

“I’m hurt that the school reacted so quickly to punish us instead of taking the time to better understand the situation,” said one black student.

“But looking back, I wish I had done more to stop it,” the student wrote. “When the video was being shot I didn’t feel good and I froze. I wanted to get it over with so I could practice.”

While it remains unclear why the team thought it was a good idea to hold a mock slave auction, one thing is clear: the damage caused by their actions continues to reverberate.

This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/student-slave-auctions-illustrate-the-existence-of-a-hidden-culture-of-domination-and-subjugation-in-us-schools-194807.

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