Textbooks Calling Slaves 'Workers' Too Offensive Even For Texas
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As we have mentioned a time or two, Texas's dreadful standards for teaching U.S. history have resulted in some awful nonsense, like suggesting that Moses gave us the Constitution, not to mention some serious distortions in the treatment of slavery and the Civil War. So we shouldn't be too surprised that, in the effort to not make slavery and the slave trade seem too offensive for the rightwing crazies in charge of buying textbooks, at least one publisher actually managed to avoid the word "slaves" altogether in a couple of instances, instead describing slaves as "workers" or "immigrants."
After a Houston parent's Instagram photo of a passage in her son's World Geography textbook went viral, McGraw-Hill announced it would rewrite an illustration caption that said "The Atlantic slave trade brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations":
Since the "slave trade" is at least mentioned, we suppose that if it had been an isolated example, the caption might plausibly be the result of clumsy editing -- an attempt to avoid saying "slave" twice in a row -- but it reeks of euphemism, as parent Roni Dean-Burren pointed out in her repost of her son's message to her: "notice the nuanced language there. Workers implies wages … yes?” But Dean-Burren then went on to post a Facebook video in which she explains that the illustration came from a section called “Patterns of Immigration” and seemed to equate slaves to indentured servants from Europe. That's pretty much in line with Texas's standards to downplay the importance of slavery because hey, people got to America all sorts of different ways, one of which was becoming slaves.
Recognizing a PR disaster when it sees one, McGraw-Hill posted a not-quite apology and a promise to revise the caption in the next edition:
We believe we can do better. To communicate these facts more clearly, we will update this caption to describe the arrival of African slaves in the U.S. as a forced migration and emphasize that their work was done as slave labor. These changes will be reflected in the digital version of the program immediately and will be included in the program’s next print run.
So let's hear it for the ability of pissed off people on the internet to do some good. And let's also brace for the inevitable whining on Fox News about the attempt to impose "political correctness" on the teaching of history. Maybe Steve Doocy could ask indignantly, "Well, are they saying that the slaves didn't work? I thought that's what all the fuss was about!"
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.