From the Editor: We need a little more, please

Even in the age of technology, you’d be surprised at the number of handwritten and typed letters we receive almost daily from readers.

From prisoners who just want their story to be heard in a quest for appeal, to irate readers who want to comment on a recent story, I’d say PW gets as much reader submissions via snail mail as we do electronically. Which is insane.

I try to read all that comes to my attention – although I have to say that judging by what comes in, there are a LOT of innocent people in prison – so sometimes those get read on delay. But I read one the other day that really disturbed me.

It was from a concerned parent at a South Philly-based Catholic school who claims that her child’s school is actually teaching that slavery wasn’t all bad, because not all slave owners are horrible white people like movies, books and history would like to depict. The writer claims that in this class, students read two narratives, one written from the perspective of a former slave and the other a widow of a slave owner. But it was the latter that this parent took issue with. In the letter, she writes:

“The essay written from the slave owner perspective was about a widowed woman whose husband had owned the slaves of their plantation. Upon his death, she became the owner and her narrative centered on how hard it was for her as a widow and how she needed her slaves for ‘survival.’..Furthermore, the essay emphasized how ‘kind’ she was to her slaves. I was floored!! I was beyond shocked this is what they were teaching my child.”

She added that in her mind this lesson does nothing more than “uphold white supremacy and plants the seeds of racism in the next generation…”

She claimed that the letter I received was also sent to officials at the school, the Archdiocese and that PW is just one of many media outlets across the city this “Very Sorry White Mother Who Should’ve Done More…” – sent the one-page rant to.

I don’t even need to get into explaining why justifying one of the evilest events in human history is abhorrent. This mom did it for me and adds that it’s a shock that has stuck with her for a few years as her child has since changed schools – however, she’s not convinced that the school and that specific teacher aren’t just regurgitating the same imprudent curriculum.

I agree with this parent. The minimization of an event where humans used to own other humans is not only crap curriculum, in many ways, it’s morally wrong. For any teacher to use a lesson plan aimed to show the bright side of slavery and have said lesson plan receive approval needs to seriously have their own morals – and frankly job security – examined.

However, this mother never left her name, a contact at the school or any other parents who may share in her same disdain for what her child was taught. While we have the name of the school, it’s a waste to follow as the school will direct the issue to the Archdiocese and the Archdiocese will deny or provide a dry statement assuredly with words like “tolerance,” “inclusion” and “compassion” nestled within its body.

It’s too bad because it was a letter that struck a chord, so I just ask that if you’re going to send a letter, help us help you. I encourage this mom to email us at and give us other additional info so we can actually stoke this fire in order to perhaps extinguish it. See, unfortunately, without all the facts, this just becomes opinion on the basis of whether or not this claim is factual or even substantial. So if you read this and want something done, we need more and we hope to hear from you.

Know that at a minimum your letter didn’t fall on blind eyes. I read it. I also hope it makes for a reminder for all of us over the dinner table to suspend the screens, bring shit back to analog status and ask our kids about what they’re learning in school.

Here’s hoping you aren’t surprised by what yours have to say.


  • Kerith Gabriel's Headshot

    Kerith Gabriel is the former editor-in-chief at Philadelphia Weekly but somehow hasn’t figured out that means he doesn’t have to write nearly as much. As a routine contributor, journalism has been in his blood since his beginnings as a sports writer over a decade ago for the Philadelphia Daily News.

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