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Wake parent fails in effort to ban video of Native Americans talking about Thanksgiving

In World
April 25, 2024

A Wake County parent is trying to get a video about the Native American perspective of Thanksgiving banned from schools because she claims it’s filled with lies and is racist to white people.

The YouTube video from Cut.com shows Native Americans using words like “horror beyond measure,” “massacre, “slaughtered,” “romanticism” and “lies” to describe what thoughts they associate with Thanksgiving.

On Wednesday, the Wake County school system’s Instructional Materials Review Committee unanimously upheld Alston Ridge Middle School’s decision to use the video, despite the objections of parent Beth Braswell. The committee also unanimously voted to allow the video to continue to be used in middle schools and high schools.

“Banning the video does not change the history of the atrocities brought upon the Native Americans that owned this land and were killed by Europeans to creates the colonies,” said Nicole McNeil, a parent member of the district committee. “Instead it suppresses the beliefs and opinions of Native Americans.”

After the vote, Braswell said she would not appeal the committee’s decision to the school board.

“I was trying to gauge the ideological capture of the Wake County school administration and teachers,” Braswell said in an interview Wednesday. “I know now.”

Perspective of Native Americans

The video is part of the “One Word” video series from Cut.com asking people what they associate with a particular word. Chris Rudy, the chief executive officer of Cut.com, said the people in the video were selected after producers put out a call in Seattle asking for Native Americans to share their thoughts on Thanksgiving.

Screenshot from Cut.com YouTube video asking Native Americans what they associate with the word “Thanksgiving.” A parent wants the video banned from Wake County schools because she says it presents lies about Pilgrims and Thanksgiving and is racist toward white people.

Screenshot from Cut.com YouTube video asking Native Americans what they associate with the word “Thanksgiving.” A parent wants the video banned from Wake County schools because she says it presents lies about Pilgrims and Thanksgiving and is racist toward white people.

Rudy said the Native Americans in the video are not actors.

“If they have a perspective rooted in their experience, how can you say it’s not credible?” Rudy said in an interview Wednesday.

According to Braswell’s complaint, the video was shown to her daughter’s eighth-grade social studies class in Cary prior to Thanksgiving break. It’s part of an effort in recent years by teachers to incorporate more of the Native American perspective of Thanksgiving.

“My concern is that WCPSS is attempting to groom my daughter into Marxist ideology by lying to her about the history of America,” Braswell wrote in her complaint dated Feb. 15.

Mom claims ‘shadow of evil’ on Thanksgiving

Braswell cites several comments in the video, including words like “white pilgrims,” “Puritans came and slaughtered them” and “they slaughtered millions of us.”

“The purpose was to cast a shadow of evil on the Thanksgiving holiday so that the children would not want to celebrate the holiday,” Braswell wrote. “The purpose was to encourage racism against white Americans by saying their white ancestors massacred the Native Americans on Thanksgiving.

“All these purposes feed into the desire of teachers and educators who are Marxists to turn the US into a communist country.”

Braswell’s complaint echoes the concerns of some people who accuse public schools of teaching Critical Race Theory to make white students feel guilty for the actions of their ancestors.

“Teachers and administrators in WCPSS are encouraged by WCPSS to denigrate white people in American history and show preferential treatment towards brown and black people,” Braswell wrote in her letter seeking the district level appeal. “This translates into racism against white people, which is very popular right now. Especially in academia.”

Braswell also contends it’s inappropriate to show the video because Cut also makes the Truth or Drink drinking card game. She says the company promotes sexual promiscuity, drunkenness and drug use.

Company stands by its video

On Feb. 26, a team at Alston Ridge Middle unanimously voted to continue to let the video be shown to students. The team also rejected Braswell’s request that the teacher apologize for showing the video.

The Alston Ridge committee consisted of the principal, teachers, parents, a counselor and the library media coordinator.

Braswell then appealed the decision to the district’s Instructional Materials Review Committee, which consists of administrators, teachers and parents. This time, Braswell asked that the video not only be banned from Alston Ridge Middle but all Wake district schools.

Rudy, the Cut.com executive, stands by the video, which he says is part of an effort to increase empathy and understanding by hearing other people’s perspectives.

“I”m not a Marxist,” Rudy said. “I’m not a Communist. I just feel we should try to understand where everyone is coming from.”

Video called ‘appropriate instructional material’

During the meeting Wednesday, committee members said they were satisfied that the teacher showed the video by projecting it on a screen from her laptop. The teacher didn’t link to Cut’s website or YouTube page that had the content questioned by Braswell.

Rachel Huber-Jones, a committee member, said the video fits into North Carolina’s social studies standards about discriminatory practices and resilience to inequities, injustices, discrimination, prejudice and bias.

“In the course of eighth-grade, they will look at things like the Trail of Tears, the reservation system, relocation acts and broken and unfilled treaties with Native American tribes,” said Huber-Jones, who is Wake’s senior administrator for secondary social studies, “So having that conversation about what this holiday would look like today would make sense in that context.”

Committee members said the video is one of the multiple sources that students will watch about the Native American experience. There are 366 Native American students in Wake, or 0.2% of the district’s enrollment.

“It seems like not only appropriate instructional material but a solid choice as far as making sure that kids are given opportunities to critique and determine how they’re going to think about a specific moment in time,” said Kate Fehling, a committee member and principal of Hilburn Academy in Raleigh.

The district’s committee’s decisions are binding for two years unless they’re reversed by the school board.

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