Sarah Daley: Let’s teach the good, the bad and the ugly — the truth
Contrary to popular opinion, public school teachers are not teaching our students critical race theory. Instead, professors in graduate schools teach this academic subject. I learned about it in my master’s program in social work. In my racism class, I learned that even when white people are not intentionally racist, they still benefit from a system that makes their lives easier than Black people’s.
Institutional racism is embedded in our legal, health care, housing, educational and employment systems, and these institutions perpetuate racism, exclusion and inequities. These institutions were designed to keep African Americans enslaved, then developed into Jim Crow laws, segregation in schools and employment, voter suppression, the Tuskegee experiments, redlining and lynching.
The civil rights legislation during the 1960s unfortunately did not do enough to ensure that Black people would be able to live like white people, and Black people still suffer inequities in all areas of their lives.
Studies from the Winters Group indicate a lack of progress for Black people in socioeconomic conditions, home ownership and the workforce. The Supreme Court recently gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which will contribute to disenfranchising more people of color. Students in the inner cities who are predominately children of color have worse funding than suburban schools where white children are more likely to attend. Black people also have more health disparities compared to white people. Finally, Black men account for 6% of the population but 15% of those who are incarcerated.
Being color blind is a myth. If we were color blind, then we would not stop when the traffic light turns red and go when it turns green. Being color blind is also a luxury only white people can have. If one were to listen to people of color, one would realize that they still feel like second-class citizens in our country. Black people are not color blind themselves, and still pay attention to their surroundings and behaviors when they are interacting with white people.
I have been blessed with having two African Americans be my friends for the past 25 years. One woman was open about what it felt like to be Black in this society. She described experiencing subtle and obvious racist behaviors from white people. She also explained how when Black people get together they are preoccupied with talking about white people. They talk about their experiences with them and get support from each other about how we treat them.
What people are actually arguing about is whose history our public school teachers should be teaching. Some people think they should only be emphasizing the best examples of the USA. These people are worried that teaching the negative parts of our past would make white children feel guilty for actions that they did not do. They are also worried that Black children will feel like victims in this society. As a result, they fear that teaching the negative aspects of our history would further divide our children from each other and divide our nation.
Teaching the good, bad and ugly in an age-appropriate manner would be honest and help to get rid of any negative stereotypes children develop in our society.
Teachers could emphasize the white abolitionists who helped Black people to escape from slavery, preached and influenced politicians about the immorality of slavery, and fought in the Civil War to help free them. They could also teach about how Black people worked to become independent from their slave owners, fought in the Civil War to free themselves, and teach about the successful Black people who challenged the prevailing stereotypes, and titans like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.
This approach would help children to identify with the best Americans in our history while simultaneously teaching the truth.
Sarah Daley lives in Grass Valley.
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