File this one under “what the hell is wrong with people?” news.
A Detroit YMCA is under fire after having child campers act as slaves on the auction block. All of this while teachers and counselors acted as slave masters, chasing the children down on real horseback.
According to The Detroit News, parents found out about the horrific activity when their children came home deeply disturbed at the exercise. Called “Underground Railroad,” the slavery reenactment traumatized 10-year-old Makayla Birchett, who told her mother, Tiffany Birchett.
From the Detroit News:
Birchett recalled how in November 2015 she signed up her daughter, a student at Pardee Elementary School in Dearborn Heights, to attend the YMCA Storer Camps in Jackson. At the camp, children enjoy such activities as nature hikes, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding and sitting around campfires.
“My daughter came home after the camp. She was very disturbed, and she told me what happened. First, I was wondering if this was a ritual that they do to these kids every year they attend the camp,” Birchett said. “She told me the camp instructors, including some of their teachers, were dancing and happy before they went out to do this slave re-enactment.”
Birchett’s daughter told her that the “slave masters” were given certificates, which allowed them to pay for “slaves.” When students were “bought” or “sold,” they were told to hold up their certificates as proof.
Another parent said her daughter had witnessed one of the adult masters “killing a deputy” in front of the child “slaves.”
Birchett said her daughter has been displaying “bouts of sadness” since the incident. Devastated to hear of her daughter’s experiences, she emailed the school principal, William J. Murphy, on Dec. 11.
Principal Murphy told Birchett that no other student had complained and that the activity was meant to be educational.
But the ACLU of Michigan agreed with parents that the incident was far more disturbing than educational. When they heard the news about the activity, they forced the YMCA to immediately halt it.
In a statement given to press, YMCA president Brad Toft said their intent was not to hurt anyone.
“We take this very seriously,” Toft said. “Our intent is to create an environment kids can thrive in, and we would never do anything deliberately to hurt that. We don’t want to offer anything that makes anyone feel uncomfortable.”
It’s a little late for that, we’d say.
*Editor’s Note* An earlier version of this article indicated that the children were forced to participate in the camp. It has been corrected to note that their participation was as voluntary as a child is able to consent to.*