Newsela and Black Lives Matter: A love story
September 8, 2023
This is part of an Accuracy in Media series on Newsela. Click here to read the previous piece.
Newsela CEO Matthew Gross makes no bones about his wholehearted support for Black Lives Matter.
“While there are many resources on Newsela to help you teach about racism and the Black Lives Matter movement and provide social-emotional support to your students, we’ll be working over the coming days to make those resources easier to find and incorporate into lessons,” said Gross.
According to Gross, this education’s purpose is wholly practical: to give kids “the tools to discuss and take action.”
So it is no surprise that in Newsela’s content directory, there are 109 pieces of teaching content available through Newsela that cover BLM in none other than glowing terms.
One such article re-writes the violent history of the Black Panther Party.
It turns the group from the radical violent Marxists that visited Maoist China intending to do for America what Mao did for China, from the “gang of ruthless killers,” which is the historical consensus on the group, into community activists organized for the self-defense of Black people.
The group, founded in 1966, set out to legally arm Black Americans against the police.
“By 1970, a poll found that black people judged the Panthers to be the organization’ most likely’ to increase the effectiveness of the black liberation struggle,” said the Newsela curated content for schools, ignoring the Marxist implication of what the black liberation struggle meant.
“Two-thirds showed admiration for the party. This support was remarkable, given that the Panthers were attacked by the white press and law enforcement,” the content added.
There is almost no attention paid to such judgments as this recent comment from the UK’s The Guardian newspaper about the Black Panther Party:
“There is little doubt the Panthers were targeted in ways that were often viciously excessive, including what amounted to extrajudicial killings. But there is even less doubt that among their own senior ranks were pathological killers, ideological madmen and depraved opportunists.”
The Black Panther piece makes a great contrast with another BLM-suggested content item that criticizes a school in California for taking charitable contributions from the National Rifle Association so the school can have a shooting team and teach kids about the safe operation of guns.
“The news has led to a fierce debate over whether public schools should accept money from the NRA. Many Californians consider the NRA a politically dangerous organization,” said the Newsela content.
The clear message: Arming radical Black Marxists is good; teaching white people how to shoot competitively is bad.
And the content curated by Newsela about BLM lacks balance.
It entirely skips over BLM controversies, like the one in which the group, founded by Marxist Patrisse Khan-Cullors, tried to hide the $6 million purchase of “an opulent Southern California home,” according to the journal at Law.com.
Nor do they mention the 220 violent demonstrations under the aegis of BLM or the 25 Americans killed by fellow citizens in protests.
Instead, Newsela panders to kids, with popular acts like Beyonce, singing at the Super Bowl and paying homage to the Black Panther Party and Malcolm X, another political activist not wholly free of virulent racism, “famously referring to [white people] as ‘blue-eyed devils’ — and arguing for the creation of a Black separatist society,” according to the Washington Post.
“Two things about Sunday’s performance touched a nerve for some people: the ‘X’ formation that dancers created on the field, and the Afros and black berets they wore,” according to the Newsela content.
“The first referred to Malcolm X, while the second recalled the hairstyle and dress of the Black Panthers,” the Newsela lesson added.
This lesson was a bit more balanced but was a mostly positive portrayal of radical revolutionaries, who would likely put people like Newsela founder Matthew Gross at the top of this list of people to be killed if the type of revolution they advocated ever became a reality.
Just as the founders of BLM would do.