My daughter is taking AP World History and tonight she came to us simply appalled by the context of her textbook.
“The textbook just can’t say anything bad about white people,” she explained. Then she read me the offending sentence
From the time of Columbus, indigenous populations had been compelled to provide labor for European settlers in the Americas .
“They just can’t say what really happened, that they were enslaved by European settlers in the Americas,” she says angrily.
“Not once did they say they were slaves, “forced labor, Encomienda, terrible working conditions, forced to provide them with labor, textiles, food or other goods – so they basically stole their shit -, but not once did they use the word slavery.” (Later she finds the textbook does use the word, but only when speaking about Brazil).
She went on. The textbook had one paragraph explaining how the Catholic Church oppressed the native population, including using torture and executions. But right after that brief paragraph, they spend three paragraphs exonerating the Catholic Church from the evils they caused:
Despite its failures, the Catholic clergy did provide native peoples with some protections against the abuse and exploitation of Spaniard settlers.
“Failures?” asks my daughter. “They call torture, slavery and executions “failures”?
“It’s not like the book was written in 1980, it was published in 2008,” she says frustrated. (The book is the 4th edition, there is a 6th edition now, but her School District decided to spend money building fences that make the schools look like jails, and huge TV screens teachers use rather than buying books.
She goes on reading, and gets to the part about Brazil. She grows more appalled:
“It’s so sickening, they actually talk about them like they are animals.”
Although African slaves at first cost much more than Amerindian slaves, planters found them to be more productive and more resistant to disease.
“It sounds like a commercial: ‘Get rid of your Native American slaves, get some African ones – they will be more productive and resistant to disease, buy them now.’ It’s literally what it sounds like.”