Unnecessary Outrage Stirred By Florida's African American History Curriculum

 Authored by Richard Trzupek via The Epoch Times,

Vice President Kamala Harris claimed that middle school students in Florida will "be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery.”

Ms. Harris was referring to one of almost 200 focal points of instruction that the Florida Board of Education has adopted for instructors teaching African American history.

The passage in question says (pdf):

“Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Besides being demonstrably true, that sentence is hardly a blanket endorsement of what used to be called “the Peculiar Institution” in antebellum America.

It’s clear that Florida middle schoolers will be taught that slavery was and is cruel and morally reprehensible. In that context, they will also learn that some slaves learned new skills like farming, smithing, carpentry, etc. during their servitude.

Repeating that truth hardly removes even one speck of the stain on our national soul that's tied to slavery in America.

Some news outlets called VP Harris out for misrepresenting Florida’s curriculum.

Among those, the hosts on Fox News's “The Five” discussed the issue, which led to Fox personality Greg Gutfeld making the following comment:

“Did you ever read 'Man's Search for Meaning?' Vic Frankl talks about how you have to survive in a concentration camp by having skills. You had to be useful. Utility. Utility kept you alive.”

A number of left-leaning news outlets and politicians were horrified, having decided that Gutfeld was defending the Nazi extermination camps for supposedly providing educational opportunities for prisoners. “Let’s get something straight that the American people understand full well and that is not complicated: there was nothing good about slavery; there was nothing good about the Holocaust,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said. “Full stop.”

There was much more of the same sort of outrage spread far and wide. Reading the vitriol directed at Gutfeld, who combines thoughtful and witty about as well as any pundit going since P.J. O’Rourke passed away, was a depressing exercise. Depressing because this incident is yet another example of how many Americans have gone deliberately tone-deaf, attributing the worst possible motivations to anyone considered an enemy. What is said isn't nearly as important as who said it. One can attribute any meaning one wants to words they don’t understand.

Clearly, the point of Florida’s guidance isn't to glorify the practice of slavery, it’s to pay homage to the human spirit that can find a way to survive even in the worst of conditions. Clearly, that was Frankl’s point, and in referencing him, Gutfeld’s as well. Heroes aren't created in cesspools like slavery and genocide. Heroes are forged in the fires of adversity. Just as no Israelite wanted to be under Pharoah’s thumb, no African-American wished to feel the boot-heal of the slave master on his or her neck. When freedom finally came, each would find they not only survived, but—for some—they even grew.

Recall the moment in "The Shawshank Redemption" when Captain Hadley is holding Andy Dufresne precariously at the edge of the roof, perhaps a moment away from letting him fall to his death. Dufresne explains to Hadley how he can get out of paying taxes on a $35,000 inheritance. It’s a turning point in the movie, the moment Dufresne stops being perpetually abused meat and starts to become a useful, and therefore somewhat respected, human being of sorts. Shawshank will not become heaven, but at least it will no longer be hell.

I was present at the memorial service recognizing the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and Birkenau in 1995. The camps, located near my family’s ancestral home of Krakow, have always made a huge impression on me both for what they tell us about man’s cruelty and for what they tell us about man’s resiliency. I had the privilege to speak to some survivors, and the message I took away was this: In that horror, every prisoner had a choice: give up or try to find a way to keep going. I didn't get a sense that anyone begrudged or belittled those who gave up. It was understandable, I suppose. But if you tried to keep going, there was little you wouldn’t try.

That was Frankl’s point. If you’re Andy Dufresne and you have great accounting skills, then you try to leverage those skills to make your life a little less hard. If you’re an inmate of an extermination camp and are an expert carpenter, you try to leverage those skills to get an extra ration, or a good blanket, or anything else that will keep you alive for another day. So no, in pointing this out, Greg Gutfeld wasn't being outrageous. But the outraged? They're being ridiculous.

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