Black history is American history, yet it is neglected in schools

Author James Baldwin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Martin Luther King Jr.

Author James Baldwin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Martin Luther King Jr.

Nadiya Roache, Reporter

I remember being a kid and learning about black history at school in my predominantly white, suburban neighborhood. It always happened during the month of February and it seemed to somehow never end up being about actual black history. Lessons in a nutshell went a little something like “Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that we would all love each other. What do you have a dream about, kids?” It wasn’t until a few years ago that I really thought about how unfair the neglect for certain moments and milestones were in my childhood education. One could argue that telling a kid about slavery and segregation is inappropriate, but that’s to disregard the fact that children were, and continue to be directly affected by those very moments in history.

Black history month too often seems like an obligation. It gets treated as something that gets mentioned out of fear that ignoring it will make the excluder seem racist, so teachers throw Rosa Parks’ name out and think that they’ve done the topic justice. Acknowledging black history is important for more reasons than “because every other month is white history month.” Seeing yourself in positive images is important for any demographic but especially one that has gone through decades upon decades of deliberate attempts to vilify and belittle it. When children are exposed to scientists and artists and inventors who’ve shaped the country and look like them, it allows hope to be brought into fruition.

Whether we choose to accept this fact or not, schools are still segregated. Schools in poor neighborhoods hold children from poor households who often have little resources or unstable home lives—for many reasons, but most of these children are black. These kids need to see themselves as successful, smart, and necessary in order for that seed of hope to be planted in their minds. Black teachers are rare and unfortunately, many white teachers don’t fully grasp the need for these role models to be introduced into their students’ lives, so often, they’re not.

Black history month as a whole is important for everyone, not just black people. White people need to recognize the importance of all of these figures in their true form as opposed to the watered down versions that are taught in most schools. So long as anything but the full truth is taught and images are skewed to feed the egos of a particular race, progress will continue to be stifled.

James Baldwin wrote that “the story of the negro in America is the story of America.” We as a community and a country need to stop watering down the reality of what this country was and continues to be. We need to dare to tell the buried stories of these black people who helped make America what it is today and celebrate them. These hidden figures are important.

These stories need to be told so black boys and girls know they are more than negative stereotypes they all too often are presented as.

These stories need to be told so that white boys and girls don’t grow up with the idea that people who look like them are solely responsible for the success of this nation.

These stories need to be told because we, too, are America, every month of the year.

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