‘Don’t teach the hate and racism’: Woman upset after movie scene shown to class during Black History lesson

Grandparent upset after sit-in movie scene shown in class

HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - A scene from a movie shown to students at a Henrico school for Black History Month has left one grandmother very upset.

The woman, who chose to remain anonymous, said there’s a scene in the 2013 movie “The Butler” which promotes hatred and racism.

She said on Feb. 5, her sixth-grade grandson came home upset after seeing the sit-in scene in class.

"He said it made him feel bad about what happened in the film clip and bad about himself," the woman said.

The grandmother said she looked up the film herself and was shocked to see a clip showing young black men and women being harassed, spit on and called the “n-word”.

"I don't feel she had any right to show this to the children at school, especially children that age," she said.

"I think that's the best time for it to be shown," said Dr. Monica Manns, Chief Equity, Diversity & Opportunities Officer with Henrico County Public Schools.

Manns said the clip was shown as part of a lesson on the civil rights movement.

“There are many parts of our history that we are not proud of, but to me, that is a time I think Black-Americans were most prideful,” she said. “Because there was a time of resistance.”

However, the Elko Middle grandmother feels the clip promoted something else.

“Teaching Black History is one thing, teaching racism and hate is another,” she said. “That’s what I took it as. It wasn’t showing anything good that was ever done, it was just showing the bad. I felt it was inappropriate.”

"To me not showing it is creating a vacuum of ignorance,” Manns said. “So, to me, that is far scarier than showing the film… showing the film was countering hatred by saying hey, let me show you how powerful it is when you resist something you know is unequivocally wrong."

Manns added letters to parents about short movie clips shown in class are not typically sent home. If entire movies are to be shown in the class prior notice is usually sent home.

"Teach history, don't teach the hate and the racism,” the grandmother said. “If they're going to learn that, let them learn that at home. Let their parents tell them."

"I know that it's painful to see these things, but if we don't allow students to be uncomfortable, they're never going to grow,” Manns said. “Only through a level of uncomfortability does growth occur."

“The Butler” is loosely based on a man named Eugene Allen, a black butler who worked in the White House for 34 years.

During the scene shown to the class, the story goes back and forth between butlers serving dinner in the White House, to the black students gathered at a “whites only” restaurant.

The grandmother feels students should learn about the civil rights movement in a “more accurate form.”

“Things that were documented, definitely documented in history,” she said. “Not something a Hollywood producer decided to put on the screen. That’s not right. You don’t know if that’s accurate.”

Manns said after the matter was brought to her attention, she researched more about the movie and scene to gather information.

“One thing they said was that it was probably the most accurate depiction of what actually occurred during that time that has ever been put forward in any movie,” she added. “That was based on legal case studies as well as interviews with people who had gone through these things.”

The grandmother would like to see the teacher disciplined in some sort of way for showing the film clip in class.

“This matter is being handled appropriately at the school,” said spokesman Andy Jenks. “It’s not going to get to that point.”

The grandmother has also contacted Henrico school board members to address her complaint.

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