sit comfortably in my home and tune in to the latest news headlines, it becomes more clear to me that this country has a major problem with race that will not dissipate unless we all ‘man up’ and be honest about seeking real positive changes. People have been struggling with race, equality, and the sins of the past for far too long.
With all of the changes we make and have made in society-policies, programs and perspectives- we still haven’t gotten it ‘right’ yet. Quite frankly, we will never get it right with the way things are going today. In fact, race relations seem to getting worse and we are about to move backwards instead of forward, if we don’t open our eyes and put on our ‘big boy/girl pants’ and face the underlying issues.
We are attacking public statues and monuments that ‘celebrate’ figures of the past, those individuals whose beliefs and practices were an inhumane one. Yes, many, if not most of these figures carved in stone and displayed in public spaces are disrespectful to people of color, and may reinforce racist ideologies. However, we should be able to reframe our perspective of these persons of the past, and let them serve as reminders of a past that we vow to never visit again. What we can do is teach about not only what they did, but who they were and how they affect us then and now.
The problems we face today are a direct result of the past and the only way to reconcile with this past is to teach more fully about that past without omitting cause and effect, his-story and her-story, our story and your story. We must cease teaching to a specific audience, and from a particular perspective, and instead be inclusive, fully factual, and honest about it. We need to teach about the real stories in America, and about the collective peoples in this country-everyone-Black, white, indigenous, etc….
In history, never has there been but one group who made instrumental gains or contributions or enacted laws without impacting everyone else in that society. Yet, we teach from within that framework. We have to tell the stories about white inventors and inventions, when if honestly speaking, black people were servants and thus without rights, we can only and should wonder where in these discoveries were they. Credit for so many things were given to whites when logically we know that they were the laborers and whites were but supervisors, not doing the real work. Still, they received all credit and no one wants to teach that way, with these things in mind.
This is not to say that whites did nothing in society, for this country or the world, but the naked truths are hidden from textbooks and teaching strategies. What continues to remain hidden will continue to produce mindsets which lead to hate talk, and divisiveness. How can blacks or whites respect one another when history remains one- sided. The key to a more cohesive union is education. History is a place from which honesty, and empathy and respect for diversity should be nurtured. Yet our history remains watered down, skewed, edited and still caters to a specific audience.
History was intentionally scribed in our texts to exclude blacks and other ethnic groups, specifically and strategically. No one disputes or defies this. No one challenges those written facts or digs deeper, using pure logic as a guide. As adults who teach to children[in school and at home], who don’t encourage the critical skills to debunk, dissect, challenge or prove these views of the past, then children are being taught to be racist, sexist, and so forth.
We can’t blame youngsters for holding these radical beliefs that play out in communities everyday for we teach them with these things in mind. Similarly, they play out in school communities and on playgrounds everyday. Education is supposed to be the great equalizer in society, and yet, what it equalizes is the hatred, implicit bias and prejudice. Federal and state budgets prioritize military, criminal justice, and arguments arise out of fear about who will be over-taxed. How can we say that we treasure our future as a united country? Let’s face it. We, the adults, have had our opportunity to shape our own futures, but we can still shape the children’s future based on what we do today.
Today, we can examine how we teach children. We can give them honest and completely unbiased truth in facts, and an opportunity to gain deeper meanings and understanding of the past, that influences the present. We can stop favoring one side of history or one side’s importance, and teach as though all are important, have potential and impacted how we live today. If we do this, we will effectively teach students to respect one another, and rely on their skills and abilities alone to move them towards success and realized potential. If we continue to cripple one group, we are crippling every group, and weakening our position as global leaders and the ‘light’ for the world.
Revise our published textbooks from cover to cover, in totality. We shouldn’t teach to or about one homogeneous group when we live[d] in a heterogeneous society. It is those gaps of omission that help create gaps in opportunity, access, achievement, and leads to intolerance, apathy, and civil unrest. While in positions to make decisions that affect children’s lives, let us first, endeavor to learn and enlighten ourselves, broaden our perspectives and be unafraid of the truths. Our own ignorance, absent the desire to be enlightened and seek more knowledge, is what and where we fail students in schools everywhere. We can’t teach what we don’t know, but we can gain the strength to learn along with children as we hope to teach a bigger picture.
It is difficult to teach respect for diversity when we do not possess that requisite respect. Personally, I feel that we should not only teach beyond and outside of the textbooks, but we should abandon, destroy and boycott those standard texts that are distributed to schools across the country. We will be better off by seeking resources and reference materials that are more inclusive and non-biased. Mark my words, when that brave district or school leader makes that decision, we will witness equity and achievement levels never seen before.
We can empower a future-ready student population and be assured that they will be more empathic, compassionate, and will graduate from high school as career minded, college bound global citizens who appreciate diversity within and outside of our nation’s borders. No more xenophobia! This is when we teach tolerance and stop teaching hate!