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The Importance of Teaching Black History

As a current undergraduate student, I find it difficult to rationalize how much of history is whitewashed. Looking back at my years spent in public education, I only recall learning about a handful of Black figures, but it wasn't in great depth. However, it's unjustified how Black identity is minimized to only a few lecture slides during February.

Despite making advancements in a wide range of fields and shaping history as we know it, Black people continue to be overshadowed by their white counterparts. By growing up in a predominantly white school system, I never felt like I could voice my frustration with how my history courses never talked about my culture or marginalized voices. As a result, I always felt the desire to study African American history independently. I think my school system experience contributed to the build-up of internalized racism because I never felt like Black culture was truly acknowledged in an uplifting way. In my opinion, when you study history, you can see figures that reflect segments of your identity. Not learning about the stories of Black figures caused me to feel invisible and invalidated.

Touching the surface of Black history shouldn't be the norm because students should be able to learn about how racial oppression affects the lives of Black people worldwide. When Black history is only summed up to a few bullet points, students of all backgrounds will have a difficult time understanding how racial oppression is perpetuated on many levels. Therefore, reducing Black history to a few select footnotes within the master narrative is an injustice. By erasing Black experiences, it signals that the Black struggle is fictitious, which makes many people feel indifferent about the importance of acknowledging Black history.

The notion of feeling indifferent about Black voices is no longer an acceptable norm, so it's up to leaders within the education system to continue building inclusive and anti-racist classroom environments that will promote transformative justice. I should note that many educators work tirelessly to uplift Black voices and to ensure that their students don't just learn about one side of history that is predominantly white.

I enjoy learning about history, but not acknowledging how Black identity is not included in many historical analyses or textbooks is very unsettling and cannot be justified. There are many ways to frame historical events and movements, however, when history is whitewashed in classroom environments, students are not getting an accurate portrayal of the past. You can find the intersectionality between the past and current systems of oppression when you receive a holistic view of history.


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