After last quarter’s slavery unit, students were racing around with petitions and letters. Did you hear about the infamous pirate ship? Want to get in on the action? Here’s how YOU can make a difference also.
What were we studying? All sorts of people come to America every day, and that’s been going on since colonial times. Back in the 1600’s and 1700’s, there were lots of new settlers coming over from England, and many Africans being forced to come over to be slaves.
What was the project? Students wrote poems from the perspectives of both slaves and colonists, and they composed music on GarageBand to show similarities and differences between the experiences of these two groups of people. As you can see in this example from Reid and Steven, both groups of people had their challenges. My impression was that students were most affected by learning about the hardships and cruelty experienced by enslaved Africans.
Isn’t slavery over and done with? After we watched excerpts of the movie Roots in class, some students asked, “why did we have to watch that sad movie?!” Students learned that, unfortunately, racism is still a problem in our country. We need to know about slavery so we can begin to understand how to work towards true equality.
What’s one problem that shows racism is still alive in America? We saw an article in the news explaining that a mother in California bought a toy pirate ship for her child, made by Playmobil. When she opened the box, she found that the pirate ship came with a dark-skinned figure and a neck shackle, along with instructions to put the neck shackle on the figure. She was very disturbed to see her young child playing with a slave toy. It’s not racist to teach people about historical events, but a toy for small kids is not the way to do that.
What have students been doing about this? Some students decided to take on some activism for extra credit. Here are some examples of what they have to say to Playmobil:
- “How can you ask a four year old to put a chain around a toy slave’s neck, and then ask them to play with it?” ~Emma and Kerry
- “So rude to all those Africans or African Americans who had family members that were slaves. Please do not make any more and put them on shelves of stores.” ~ Makayla
- “Maybe it’s not offensive to you, but– I bet you — it is to billions of people. I have a lot of friends that agree with me.” ~ Matt
- “This picture comes directly from your directions for the pirate ship toy. Who in your company would have approved this? I hope you see what a huge mistake you’ve made and take action to correct it immediately!” ~ Marissa
What can you do to take action against Playmobil? There are many things that you can do to make a difference. Here are some ideas that you can do at home (if you are under 18, ask an adult to help you):
- Write a letter to Playmobil and tell them to change their pirate ship toy. Here’s how to get in touch: http://www.playmobil.us/Contact
- Write a review on Amazon so that other parents know what they are buying for their children.
- Boycott Toys R Us until they stop selling this toy. You can also contact them directly here: http://www.toysrusinc.com/contact-us/
- Share this post with your friends on social media, and encourage them to take action also!
Will this work? Ashley and Seneca brought around a petition and got almost 200 signatures. If these students can get that many people involved by circulating a piece of paper, consider how big a difference could be made with the power of the internet. As Anagha wrote on her flyer above, “If it’s only a few people they’ll just shrug it off but if it’s a bunch of people they WILL care.”
Join us — take action, and encourage others to do the same!