While the systemic racism that corrupts our society is slowly being unveiled to the masses, it is becoming increasingly clear that black history is necessary to push the limits of an imbalanced system that suffocates so many in our country today.
American students routinely witness black people’s voices being limited to overtly superficial history lessons and overshadowed by an overwhelmingly Eurocentric curriculum. Why is it that we never learn about The Black Panther Party or dive deeper into the impacts of the civil rights movement? Why is it that the only black leader highlighted is Martin Luther King Jr, whose fight for equality is generally only vaguely summarized? Where are the voices of Malcolm X and Sojourner Truth in our history books?
The whitewashed version of history has been incorporated in our education systems for as long as I can remember. Yet it is time that we tell the real stories, the desperate fights, and the painful experiences of black Americans. Only then can we begin establishing an equal nation.
Moreover, black history should not be limited to teachings of slavery, nor limited to the impactful social justice movements guided by infamous black civil rights leaders. Students must learn about slavery’s lasting impacts and how it has aided a discriminatory system since the establishment of this nation. The civil rights movement is not a thing of the past, but rather a movement that is still relevant today.
While overlooking the extent to which America functions on inequality, our school’s curriculum completely disregards the history and achievements of black individuals. We hear about the great minds and inventions of Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Ford, yet fail to learn of those by Elijah McCoy, Garrett Morgan, or Madam C.J. Walker. We were first taught about the glorified acts of Christopher Columbus as he “discovered” America, conveniently disregarding his commitment of mass genocide to the natives that inhabited this land. Then, we were taught about America’s battles for independence, yet only discussed white heroes and contributions We were taught about slavery; we name-dropped a few of the great black leaders. In other words, we were never taught black history in its entirety.
This widely accepted curriculum has widely ignored or provided an inaccurate depiction of black history. Because of this, student’s understanding of essential topics such as the civil rights movement, Brown v. Board of Education, Juneteenth, and other monumental eras of time often lack complexity.
In the end, schools have an obligation to inform their students about history that extends beyond the white patriotism that overwhelms their current lesson plans. It is necessary to value the history and struggles of all members of this nation, rather than to only expose our impressionable youth to whitewashed history books.
To aid this transition into a diverse curriculum, students should be reading books by authors that can accurately depict black experiences and accomplishments. Teachers resist any fear of teaching the painful realities experienced by black individuals and instead put active effort into educating students about black history. It is necessary to teach the full range of the triumphs and hardships of the community throughout the course of history.
Black history is essential to our understanding of where this country came from, where we are now, and what the future ultimately holds for us in the battle towards equality. On this account, I urge teachers to include black history within their regular lessons year-round. Within these lessons, however, they need to be taught as not just history, but as recurring experiences of oppression and successes connected to our current state as a nation.
As we continue to face the deafening reality of our country’s condition, it is crucial to finally represent all of our history; the pain, experiences, and great achievements of black Americans included.