In an almost appalling display of “Failure to Think Things Through,” a group of high school students from a well-off suburban Chicago school held a mock slave auction in front of mostly African-American kids from an inner city school, WLS (Chicago) is reporting.
School officials from Barrington High School are apologizing for the incident that took place over the weekend.
High school students from the Chicago area were gathered at a hotel in suburban Itasca for the Illinois Junior Classical Convention, an annual gathering of high school students who share a fondness for the Classics, that is, ancient Greek and Roman culture, art, and literature. During the convention, high school students staged various performances to demonstrate their knowledge of and appreciation for ancient cultures.
One such performance was a skit by kids from Barrington High School, a skit depicting a mock slave auction complete with a student in chains being “sold.” A parent captured the mock slave auction on cell phone video, which you can see in this WGN (Chicago) report below, via Daily Mail video.
WGN reporter Tonya Francisco notes that the mock slave auction appears to have been intended to showcase the historical reality of the slave trade in ancient Rome; after all, the Roman economy depended largely upon the slave trade, and as many as one in three people in ancient Rome were slaves, according to The Ancient History Encyclopedia.
However, the kids from Barrington High School — a school in a largely white, well-to-do suburb — failed to take into account some crucial facts.
— Barrington Patch (@BarringtonPatch) February 29, 2016
Namely, that the USA has its own, rather uncomfortable history with slavery dating back less than two centuries. Also, that it was Black History Month, and perhaps worst of all, that in the audience were kids from Kenwood Academy, a mostly black Chicago inner city school.
Making matters even more uncomfortable, according to Raw Story, the mock slave auction skit won first place.
Parent Daniel McDaniels was more than a little put off by the whole situation.
“We couldn’t believe it. We were all standing there in shock… I think the fact that it won first place sends a loud message that this is okay. I think that it was in poor taste. I think that it was culturally insensitive.”
The kids from Kenwood Academy had an even stronger reaction to the mock slave auction, saying that the Barrington kids are “so into their white privilege” that they didn’t even stop to think that what they were doing might be a problem.
In a statement, officials from Barrington High School apologized for the mock slave auction.
“The Barrington School District offers sincere apologies to those offended by a skit our high school Latin students conducted at the Illinois Junior Classical Convention in Itasca this weekend. Their depiction of slavery as it was practiced by ancient Greeks and Romans unintentionally but understandably evoked strong emotions among a diverse audience. We agree with the concern and are reviewing the incident with students and staff who were involved.”
The National Junior Classical League also issued a statement in response to the skit.
“The National Junior Classical League along with its parent organization the American Classical League regret to hear of the incident which took place this weekend at the Illinois Junior Classical League Convention. We echo the apologies issued by the… school district involved.”
Do you believe the Barrington High School Latin Club’s mock slave auction skit was in poor taste? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image via Shutterstock/Everett Historical]