Buena’s Past “Slave Days” sheds light on recent racist societal policies

Buena yearbook from 1961, shows the fundraiser Slave Days.

Downey, Kevin

Buena yearbook from 1961, shows the fundraiser “Slave Days”.

Imagine a school where female students purchase male students as slaves who must adhere to a strict dress code and rule book that declares the rights of slaves. The masters, girls who purchased the boys, make their servants carry their books and backpacks around campus. This sounds archaic and out of touch, right? Sadly, this is the bitter reality that is a part of Buena’s history.  

From what I can tell scouring old copies of the Buena newspaper Buena Vista, our school has never addressed the distasteful abomination that this fundraiser was. In the early 60’s to late 70’s Buena allowed the Knights and Key Club to hold this fundraiser to raise money for charity. To my knowledge and research there is no record of why or when this fundraiser ended, nor is there an apology.

Unfortunately, this is not only our history but many schools around America as well. A school in North Carolina recently had an incident in late February, where white students gathered their fellow black students and held a mock slave auction, all while faculty and teachers were aware and near. Concerned parents from the school district gathered to protest the discipline process that the offending students went through, a one-day suspension. 

“It is inappropriate but it is common. I am not surprised by it. We are talking about the southern states, but it is wide awake here even in California,” Black Student Union Advisor Marcia Amegadzie said. 

This is not just among the younger generations as many older generations are still struggling to pass equality laws and discrimination laws. As of Mar. 29, 2022 The Biden administration passed The Emmett Till Lynching Act, making lynchings a federal hate crime, leaving some states to determine if a lynching in their own state, is a hate crime or not. 

Over the past century activists have tried to pass this law nearly 200 times, but there were more people against the law, with no specific reasoning that I can find. After years of effort, many were left confused regarding why the law had not been passed for so long. 

Amegadzie explained that this is the result of systemic racism that seeks to“hold minority groups down.” 

Bigotry is still alive and well across the world, instances of segregation and discrimination still happen daily. The last school to desegregate was Cleveland High School, in Mississippi in 2016. After an intense 50 years of fighting for equality with the order of a federal judge.

“I can guarantee you there are still schools in the deep southern states that are still segregated, and are not following the law,” Amegadzie said. 

There are a lot of misconceptions that we are teaching Critical Race Theory, that is not in the [state] standard. We are not teaching Critical Race Theory. That is not to say we do not talk about race.

— Kevin Downey

Each social issue has multiple sides to it. Schools have to consider how to teach on topics of racial injustice, which turns into a controversial conversation about Critical Race Theory. 

“There are a lot of misconceptions that we are teaching Critical Race Theory, that is not in the [state] standard.” History teacher Kevin Downey said. “We are not teaching Critical Race Theory. That is not to say we do not talk about race.” 

Downey describes the importance of educating students, having open conversations as teachers, and teaching the improvement and lack of racial history.

“We work to address them, but sometimes they are not addressed until you grow older, when you can handle these challenges,” Downey said. 

History happens around us everyday and there is a teetering line of how to educate students about history, and how to address these topics as they are actively happening in everyday society. No matter what mistakes or events happen, it is extremely important to have open conversations to educate our youth and make a progressive future.