An online game that stimulates slavery has trivialized some of the most traumatic flashpoints of African-American history, several parents at one Phoenix elementary school and a Black Lives Matter Phoenix vice chairman said recently.
Shock and anger over “Mission US: Flight To Freedom,” a game allowing students to “adopt the persona” of 14-year-old enslaved girl Lucy King, has caught officials’ attention at Emerson Elementary School in Phoenix, The Arizona Republic reported. Lucy must avoid beatings and a slave master to escape a Kentucky plantation in one of the game’s formats. Parents, especially those who lived through the civil rights era, have cried foul.
“I found out about it last week, when my son told me what happens in the game,” said De’Lon Brooks, whose seventh-grader attends Emerson, a K-8 school. “…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.”
How “something racist and sexist could’ve been used and nobody said anything” was an important issue to JJ Johnson, the BLM-Phoenix official who met with district officials Tuesday to urge its removal.
The district agreed with BLM and parents’ serious concerns and were taking the issue to its administration “to be reviewed quickly,” said Phoenix Elementary district spokeswoman Sara Bresnahan. Officials blocked access to “Mission US” on Tuesday, but were still unsure about how many students played the game or how the simulation made its way into the classroom.
The game’s name was missing from the district’s “pacing guide,” an online repository of instructional tools available to teachers. However, the “City of Immigrants” mission involving a 14-year-old Jewish girl immigrating to New York from Russia in 1907 was on the list, Bresnahan said.
Officials knew of only one seventh-grade classroom that had used the simulation and were checking whether other teachers in the district’s 13 elementary schools had used the game as well.
Surprisingly, “Mission US” has earned nearly 20 awards and honors since The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Humanities provided funding for its development. The “Flight to Freedom” simulation debuted in 2012, the Daily Mail reported.
However, criticisms have come from several teachers and tech specialists about the game, particularly the way it was “downplaying hundreds of years of suffering.”
“It doesn’t make sense for any educator with a clear understanding of what’s going on in society … to think that anything like this would be appropriate for a bunch of elementary-schoolers,” Brooks said.