It’s promising for a large portion of Americans to be now especially sensitive to issues of racism and other forms of bigotry, having had the opportunity to learn more about what still needs to be done to combat racism upon the ascension of the belligerently racist Donald Trump to the presidency.
Still, even the best of intentions can fall short of actually addressing the problem of racism in our society.
A Massachusetts school district was forced to issue a hasty apology after a photo circulated showing two “leashes” attached to an African American third grade student.
Check out the image for yourself below.
The photo was originally shared by the class’ teacher, and, apparently, it was provided without context, although it’s a wonder to think that not one person at any point in the chain of setting up the scene to distributing the photo realized how easily it could be taken as racist.
The actual apparent context for the photo is a lesson from Plimouth Plantation on life in the 17th Century. As a part of this lesson, students, along with an adult, dressed up in attire from the era. This attire included, apparently, “tethering straps” that were included in toddlers’ clothes so as to help them learn to walk.
The apparent fact that the African American girl with the straps on her clothes was role playing as a toddler is evidenced — once you know what you’re looking for — by the fact that she’s kneeling. In the image, two seemingly white students are standing behind the kneeling student, holding onto the straps attached to her period appropriate clothes.
Still, unsurprisingly, the image prompted the previously mentioned outrage from the families of students in the Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District.
Superintendent Derek Swenson apologized for the unfortunate misunderstanding in a statement issued on Thursday that read, in part:
‘We realize without this context added to the photo that was shared by the classroom teacher it could be perceived differently. Please note it was never the intent of the lesson to demean or degrade any one person or group. The Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District sincerely apologizes to the students, staff and community at large for this unfortunate incident.’
He explains that the school district got word of the image on Wednesday and immediately began an investigation.
Just because this incident turned out to be not as bad as it first seemed does not mean that racism does not remain a real and potent issue in the United States.
For example, just recently, a family support group associated with Fort Bragg in North Carolina faced criticism after posting an image of two children in blackface as promotional material for an upcoming Halloween party. In the photo, which has unsurprisingly been removed from Facebook, the children’s mother — who is also in costume — is holding puppet strings attached to the children’s clothes.
Nationwide tensions also remain high in the wake of incidents more acutely potent than any of the above cited incidents, including a spike in hate crimes following Donald Trump’s election and repeated gatherings of white supremacists around the country.
Featured Image via Brian Blanco/Stringer/Getty Images