Our recent #SOBTC chat topic was the touring of Black History Month as opposed to deep-seated learning and appreciation of its historical significance. One of the things teachers and educators have to guard against is unpacking the Black History box. The box with the timeline of great African-Americans, the stock photos of Tubman, Jackie Robinson, King, X, and Truth. Those things are harmless, the social studies book with Ralph Bunch quotes.
The issues becomes when we (as teachers) only discuss the contributions of African- Americans only during Black History month. Carter G. Woodson started Black History month because of the marginalization and suppression of the contributions of Our people. Doesn’t’ that same suppression still exist if we’re talking about it for only a 28 day period?
This is not just an issue of Black History Month. In the age of high stakes testing, we as teachers tour many subjects and content strands. This happens during Hispanic Heritage Month and Women’s History month. It happens in any and all subjects that do not affect the bottom line of AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). Tourist pass through. Residents take root, stick around and absorbed the intricacies of the content. Instructional leaders are encouraging students to find a topic of interest within the larger scope of the unit and conduct and take ownership of their learning, based on those interest.
This has to be embraced by school leaders and teachers. This is true of the inner city and the suburban landscape. The embracing of African-American History has to be an American undertaking. It cannot happen in silos of the ghetto where African-American children are taught. White students need to cover subjects relating to Our history. And those students from the inner city need to have white teachers who feel comfortable delving into the content as well. Conversely, teachers of color who teach across the suburban landscape need to feel comfortable pushing the envelope. And needless to say, all of the above need support from school leaders.
But we live in a segregated America. What happens across the suburban landscape with white teachers instructing white children? Those white teachers need to be compelled to tell the stories of Black History, even if they are not comfortable. The Black diaspora has no influence in the hallways and curriculum creation of these schools. The suppression of Black History in these hallways and curricula are the suppression that Carter G. Woodson fought against.
It reminds me of an episode of Jeopardy. The champion had won for three days. He had accumulated lots of money. A question came up that read something like this: “The historic giant in African-American history was a former slave in Maryland and wrote one of the more popular slave narratives. “ The champion did not have an answer. But neither did the other two contestants. Not even a guess. In fact one ot he contestants had a look on her face of dumbfoundedness and resentment that such a question would even be asked. This symbolizes that college educated white people cannot discuss Fredrick Douglass on a cursory level.?!
It further reminded me of a quote by KRS-One:
“When one doesn’t know about the other one’s culture
Ignorance swoops down like a vulture…
As always, thank you for reading.