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Posted under: News Race & Identity

Parents Outraged After Phoenix Elementary School Students Instructed To Play Slavery Simulation Game

The game has since been pulled from the school's usage.

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Remember that South Park video game that simulated racial hardships in life? Well, there's another racially motivated game at the center of controversy, and this time ... it's for children.

Mission US: Flight to Freedom is an online game meant to simulate slavery.

When a teacher at a Phoenix elementary school, had students play the game, parents were left outraged. Many of the students' parents felt making slavery into a game trivialized the trauma of the historic tragedy.

According to USA Today, the game involves players taking on the role of 14-year-old Lucy King, a slave who yearns to escape a Kentucky plantation. In the Choose Your Own Adventure-style game, players must adhere to the master's demands (and endure beatings), while plotting a river escape.

Photo: Snow Castle
Photo: Snow Castle

"I found out about it last week, when my son told me what happens in the game," said De'Lon Brooks, parent of an Emerson Elementary seventh-grader. "I was just like, 'No. Not at all. That's not going to work.'

Brooks added, "As a parent and as someone who grew up under civil-rights [movement] members, I couldn't allow my son to be subjected to that without my permission."

Local activists weren't feeling the game, either.

"It's not a game in any way, shape or form, slavery is not a game and it shouldn't be minimized to that when you think of all the horrible things that happened," Richard Crews, the director Strategic Initiatives of Arizona Against Hate, told AZ Family.

"I just think it's a horrible idea to move slavery into the realm of gaming," he said.

Arizona State University professor Neal Lester was right there with him. "Why does it have to be fun? Slavery wasn't fun," Lester said.

Photo: Snow Castle
Photo: Snow Castle

Phoenix Elementary district spokeswoman Sara Bresnahan has confirmed that the game has been pulled from the classroom, and further noted that the district doesn't know how the game ended up in the classroom in the first place. 

"My personal opinion is the content should not be used on our schools at all, so I'll be taking that recommendation to the administration. In the meantime the district very quickly pulled all the content," Bresnahan said in a statement.

Black Lives Matter Phoenix vice chairman JJ Johnson immediately met with the Phoenix Elementary School District after hearing the parents' concerns last week. 

"I really am optimistic that we can make some changes with the district, because they seemed receptive," Johnson noted. "But it still doesn't explain to me how something so racist and sexist could've been used and nobody said anything."

The creators of the game haven't yet released a comment in regards to this particular incident, but the game's online summary says it "immerses players in rich, historical settings" and "empowers them to make choices that illuminate how ordinary people experienced the past."

Bresnahan ensured parents and the community that the district has "numerous initiatives underway on these topics to increase our awareness, understanding and education."

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