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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Opinion

Hey McGraw-Hill, slaves were not workers


Changing history is like trying to cover up the sun with your thumb — you might think you’ve got it, but in reality, there is so much there that it’s impossible.

Textbook publisher McGraw-Hill Education learned just how hard that was earlier this week when a Pearland High School freshman’s mother called out the publisher for printing a geography textbook with a caption on a map that mislabeled slaves as “workers.”

The caption displays the Atlantic slave trade and says that “… (the) trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”

Despite an apology for “the way it was written” from McGraw-Hill Education and a promise to recall and replace the book — at the schools’ request — in the over 400 school districts where the books are used, that is not enough.

McGraw-Hill Education should not only apologize for the way the caption was written, but also for the sentiments that the caption carried.

Labeling slaves as workers undermines the horrors of slavery, and it insults the memory of those who struggled through it.

The Atlantic slave trade did not move workers from one continent to another, it moved kidnapped people who were enslaved and brought to the U.S. in disease-ridden ships where they were forced to part from their families. Many also died in the voyage. And those who did not die were forced to work endlessly without hope of a better future.

McGraw-Hill Education, however, is not the only one at fault. Texas is also at fault as the textbook was approved by the state board of education in November, according to an article by the Houston Chronicle.

The fact that this detail was overlooked by so many is unacceptable.

Even more unacceptable is the cop-out that McGraw-Hill Education is playing in saying that “…the book was reviewed by many people inside and outside the company, and was made available for public review,” and that “no one raised concerns about the caption.”

Just because something is public does not mean that people are aware of it and placing the blame on the public is a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Details can make a difference, and this small, but significant one on McGraw-Hill and Texas’ part makes a huge difference. Especially to those whose ancestors suffered in slavery and are now being said to have come to the U.S. for a job.

— The Cougar Editorial Board

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