Should blacks in America be considered in the general definition of “diversity”? Of course, one can not discuss American history and negate people whose past is closely linked to the founding of the country’s infrastructure. This country was built on the backs of slaves-black people-African-Americans.
At this point, I shall not detail all that black people contributed to the economic survival of this nation, either. My concern chiefly surrounds the absence of African Americans from most of our history books. From the White House to the outhouse, from the north to the south, east to west, blacks have made enormous contributions. In fact, this country could not have thrived or survived had it not been for the free labor of an enslaved people. That is not debatable. That is a fact!
But, what about the blacks who’ve made contributions to society post slavery-post ‘literal’ legal bondage? We know that most of the former slaves survived; some eventually prospered in this country. On the other hand, we also are aware of the large numbers of blacks who were poor, very poor. Despite the level of poverty and amidst the accompanying struggles, social and political climate, there have always been an enormity milestone accomplishments made by blacks in this country. Why have we not been told their stories? Why haven’t we been taught about them and what they’ve done? Why AREN’T schools teaching about these people to children across America?
Why are they not in textbooks and included in the curriculum? Not just for Black History Month, in February, each academic school year, but ALL year-throughout the entire official scope and sequence, across content/ subject areas, embedded and woven into the curriculum!
As an adult, I know where to look to find answers to my questions, but what about the millions of young children who don’t even know these people exist, nor do they know where to look for answers? Where they do look, as prime resources of information and knowledge and answers, is their teachers at school and the textbooks they are assigned to read every year. So, it is up to classroom teachers to tell the stories of African Americans to ALL students; all children need to know. Black children need to know that they, too, have value and we need to show them why that is factual. Show them that we care about them, who they are, who their ancestors were, and who they can be.
It is not a ‘district’ decision, a political decision, or the decision to be made by your state’s governing education department. The decision to teach black children about black people, black history, leaders, scientists, engineers, doctors, etc… IS A CLASSROOM TEACHER DECISION. Aligning information with common core, scope and sequence, or content/subject area relevance is irrelevant[pardon the pun]. For every subject that is taught in school, there is an African American who has an influence, and made great contributions to that field of study. There are no excuses. Black history IS American History-World History! Educators are encouraged to keep their instructional delivery interesting, differentiated and relevant. Where is the relevance needed for children of color to achieve, succeed, and remain engaged in school?
Offering culturally appropriate instruction with culturally appropriate information is both relevant and differentiated. IT IS ALSO INTERESTING!
You can make a conscious choice to fully support the diversity that exists in the classrooms, and you can make a conscious decision to ignore a child’s need for heroes, inspiration, validation, and role models who influence their life choices starting now! By going ‘strictly by the book’, we fail our children, black children. Historically, traditional texts used by schools all across the country, WILL NOT, DO NOT and HAVE NOT differentiated their delivery of information with respect for diversity. These are the books which are relied upon for accuracy in recording facts and are used and read by millions of children every year for hundreds of years now.
With the awareness of our nation’s historical racism, racist beliefs, laws and practices, we should know better. We have no excuses to continue to provide children with flawed, incomplete and irrelevant materials, and deny ALL children access to history’s balanced truths-everyone’s truths, not just ‘HIS-story’. We are continuing to fail children, and fail ourselves. We are quick to proclaim our virtuous liberalism, support for equality, justice, and the belief that all children can learn and achieve in school and beyond. If that is indeed true, then we would go out of our way to trash the traditional skewed texts, if your school still uses them, and make class more exciting, interesting, and informative by fully supporting your students and the diversity they represent. Either we perpetuate the mis-education of millions of children attending our nation’s schools, or we begin to better, more appropriately align our practices, communication and instruction, including instructional materials, to support the learning success of students, as diverse representations of society’s diversity. Teach to and for whom you are teaching, mindful and respectfully. Be an innovator or a revolutionary or even a radical. Either way, you will be appreciated for your outstanding dedication to delivering quality educational experiences to our future leaders.
Lest we learn from our past, we are likely to be doomed to repeat it. God forbid! It is from knowing our past that shapes our futures!