by RAPHAEL NELSON
Do you realize how psychologically destructive it is to start the teaching of Black history with slavery? This bigoted attempt at educating Black children undoubtedly gives Black children a low self esteem, leaving them to only see their ancestors as a doomed people. Right away their morale is attacked. By teaching slavery as their historical beginning, educators leave a distorted ideal of what it means to be of African descent.
The portrayal of Africans as slaves and Europeans as masters assigns White children a false sense of paternalism and Black children a false sense of submission. Instilling these beliefs in children quickly molds the classroom into a hierarchal environment.
While mainstream educators degrade the role of Blacks to slave labor in their courses, they exaggerate and manipulate (subconsciously or consciously) the legacies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Christopher Columbus, and Abraham Lincoln alike. Notable Black historical figures such as Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey and W.E.B Dubois are virtually absent from these lessons, as Black history is minimized to the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. Even Dr. King’s message is white washed to promote ideals of world wide unity, leaving his criticisms of White America out.
One must question this misrepresentation of Black history, and how this dire situation can be corrected. Despite the integration of schools, the education our children receive is still heavily segregated. Lesson plans that focus on the exaggeration of the “forefathers” is unacceptable. It is important that educators embrace the teaching of our nation’s complex racist history to Black children, rather than hiding behind the veil of integration. The material which covers notable African Americans as historical educators, leaders, inventors, authors and political advisors is present, yet many Black children are unaware of our people’s true trials and triumphs in this country. The trials of Jim Crow South, black codes implemented by Andrew Johnson following Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, The Ku Klux Klan, and lynching are barely mentioned. This understandably sensitive material is not even reserved for high school or college students; it is simply not discussed in detail.
These topics barely scratch the surface, as children of African descent should also be learning about their African ancestors, and about the current events of Africa in addition to African American history. Civilization began in Africa, yet this is not taught to our youth. They are taught to begin their history with enslavement. Our ancestors birthed agriculture, architecture, language, mathematics, and so much more. Our children should be learning not only this, but of the many Kings, Queens, Emperors, and leaders they descend from.
We must realize that our schools play a vital role in the psychological molding of our children. Yet, before we can alter the curriculum of any public school, we must begin by teaching true African and African American history at home. It is important to instill the knowledge of our greatness in our children in order to combat the segregated education that they receive currently. To rob Black children of an opportunity for knowledge is to aid the current teachings of white supremacy; and the painful, yet beautiful history of our people is vital to our future.