February Reflection: Black History

Mom: So what are you teaching from Black History Month?
Teacher: We’re discussing Abraham Lincoln.
Mom: …

When this is the conversation have at your son’s new school, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. That was years ago. And nothing has changed.

Once again we’ve made it through another February where my children have yet to be exposed to any history that is Black. Is it solely on the shoulders of their educators to inform them of their history? No. We, as parents, carry that weight as well.

So what did my son study for the whole of February? Colonial times.  Yes. February is when they chose to study the founders of the slave trade. It baffle, boggles, and perplexes the mind. They even spent a day dressed as and learning more about living as a colonist. My son was assigned to represent Thomas Jefferson. I’ll leave that there a minute. They learned how they ate, what they wore, and slightly skimmed over slavery. It was a bad thing to do. Naughty colonists.

Last year, I spoke out. I remember how quiet that PTA meeting got when I asked about it. I was met with women spouting things like, “We celebrate all cultures,” and “Yeah, we just celebrated the Chinese New Year.”  After going over MLK Day the month before, a few bits about elementary school not being an appropriate time for Black History, and these women proving they knew the names Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks, I went to the principal of the school and asked about the lack of black history in the curriculum, specifically during the month of February. While he seemed interested in filling the void, I left the meeting feeling that I was on my own when it came to petitioning a change in the lesson plans.

Living in a predominantly white, upper middle class suburb, finding parents to sympathize with my plight seemed a lost cause. Now, in the Orange Reign, I feel even more hopeless in my will to shed light on the beautiful and brilliant brown people that have left marks on this country. But I also feel it necessary, if only at home, to champion black history year-round.

When your child knows more about black history than their educators, you know you have to step up. Today, more than ever, we need all students educated on the full history of this nation. We need educate on the good, the bad, and the ugly. And there are all three in Black History. We come from more than slavery and freed. We are more than whipped backs and broken chains. We are innovators and inventors. We are writers, musicians, and artists. We are educators and advocates. Our history is at the root of all that. Black History is American History. It is mine as much as it is yours.

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