The topic of slavery, the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about.
With my son only being two years old, it’s safe to say I have a few years before I have to think about him going to school, but I cant help but wonder what that experience is going to be like for him. I am nervous for him, I wonder what he will feel when he begins to learn about slavery, I wonder if he will be the only black child in class like I often was, I wonder if my son is the only black boy in class, will the kids look at him throughout the lesson? Will they judge him? I can imagine some may experience a sense of compassion, but will there be a few who don’t? I recall learning of slavery in elementary school, my teachers took the “cookie cutter” approach, we learned “just enough” an approach proving to be detrimental to kids. What exactly is “just enough”? In February of 2018, Students at Middle School 118 in Bronx, NY told The New York Daily News that their social studies teacher, Patricia Cummings, picked three of the black students in her classroom and told them to lie on the floor to see “how it was to be a slave” for a lesson on the Middle Passage, where slaves were brought on ships to America. Read more here It doesn’t stop there, The Atlantic reported, “A class of middle-schoolers in Charlotte, North Carolina, were asked to cite “Four reasons why Africans made good slaves.” Nine third-grade teachers in suburban Atlanta assigned math word problems about slavery and beatings. A high school in the Los Angeles-area reenacted a slave ship—with students’ lying on the dark classroom floor, wrists taped, as staff play the role of slave ship captains. And for a lesson on Colonial America, fifth-graders at a school in northern New Jersey had to create posters advertising slave auctions”
All I can think is it is 2020 and we are still dealing with this ignorance, and not only are we still dealing with it, but now its being taught to our babies.– Unacceptable.
More parents, hell more teachers, more school systems are realizing slavery is being mistaught and sentimentalized, leaving children misinformed and often times confused about very important race issues. Part of me wants to have compassion for these teachers as we don’t know their backgrounds, we don’t know what they were taught or in this case what they were not taught. Make no mistake the small piece of compassion I do have in no way constitutes as an excuse. I think as a black mom we can all agree that many teachings regarding “black history” truly begin at home when raising black children. Imagine if we left it up to these teachers forcing our children to learn from the ones tying them up. They’ll teach them about Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln (the one we are supposed to know) but what they are not learning is just how important slavery was to the Southern Economy, many important facts about the Civil War and its link to slavery, they don’t tell the kids how the slaves were treated and what they had to endure, so much is left out. It is my belief that proper education on black history truly brings things full circle for those living in Modern America today, of course that is only important for those who are actually willing to learn.
Times Magazine did an interview with people questioning how they were taught about slavery,
“There was minimal discussion about slavery at my school, but in our Texas history class, a teacher joked, “If the South won, you would be our slaves.” I was one of four black students and we looked at one another in shock. The teacher became angry and said it was “just a joke.”
— Gina Kennedy, 46, went to school in Dallas
Black people are amazing and have gone on to do extraordinary things even with the odds against us, another thing omitted out the curriculum. I recognize of course all schools are different but times have changed and many of the changes have yet to be recognized (surprise surprise). I dread the day my son goes to school and learns about the many historical fallacies and in the midst of them he will be taught about Barack Obama. America’s first black president and I wonder how he will be remembered… Will the celebration of America’s 44th president be drowned out with the many facts of his presidency followed by list of accomplishments being sure to exclude the most important– he did it while black. Will they take away the most important take away that i’d love for my son to see… that he too can be all of this? I can imagine the importance of America electing its First Black President may just be omitted because American History is taught year round while black history is limited to just a month. To many what Obama represents is more important than what he did, a scary thought for the close minded. Unfortunately as I said earlier, no one likes the elephant in the room, which will leave Obama along with many other important black people in history to be taught at home.. I wish educators could understand the importance of representation for black children, but they can’t. The majority of notable people taught in history don’t look like us, but imagine how our babies would feel if they did. Education would take on a new meaning if our children learned that there were many Obama’s of course not all in America but there were, talk about a morale booster while learning along the way, “This could be you”. Its no secret blacks lack representation but to teach our kids that its the “norm” has got to change.
So here’s to teaching our children that yes, you can be all you can be even when you aren’t taught that in school.
Thank you for reading,