I had finally gotten the image out of my mind, until I wrote my column a few weeks ago about wearing my “Confederate hat” around town (November 28, 2018 Signifyin’) and it all came back to me. “It’s Malcolm X,” the young African American teenager responded to my question about what the hat represented.
Malcolm X? The Black liberator? I was about to take the young student through an animated tirade on American history when another young student interjected and explained what the flag actually represented, and questioned why I—a community elder—was wearing such a vulgar image?
Her response and question immediately melted away my frustration and disappointment with the first sister’s response to my question, but it didn’t answer the pressing question the first young lady provoked.
What in the world are they teaching our Black children about American history? Or maybe the questions should be, what are they not teaching? And why not?
And let’s not let their parents off the hook. What cultural nourishment are they feeding their children about their heritage and history? Are they preparing their children for the “real world,” the world beyond the urban streets? Are they providing their Godly gifts with a cultural foundation to stand upon?
As I was to learn, the confused and misguided young sister was a freshman at the Northside charter school I visited while the knowledgeable sister was a senior. Based on the curriculum and school agenda, by the time the freshman made it through her first year, she would be well versed in real American history, before and after the Boston Tea Party. She would know why people of color were excluded from the American dream and that the cancer of racism is a dominant gene in the American DNA.
Equally important, she would be provided with critical thinking skills to navigate the “American experience,” one that continues to treat people of color like chattel 242 years after the declaration of “their” independence. She will learn how to prepare herself for being profiled, discriminated against and the subject of generalizations and prejudices. She will also learn why. And when. And where. And maybe even the whatevers and howfors.
Equally important, students at the charter will discover who they really are, not the descendants of savage slaves, but instead the progenies of stolen African survivors; the pedigrees of the inventors of math, science and medicine. Through their veins flow the blood of Nyame’s true chosen, the first man and woman; the Hue-men beings from which all ethnicities were promulgated.
Sadly, I can’t say that knowledge is awarded children in most public schools. They are, by design, fed a daily dose of half-truths, misinformation and sanitized trivia.
They won’t be told, for example, that the great, inspirational and heroic founding fathers were also rapists and racists.
That Lincoln didn’t free the slaves. Like Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson the “great emancipator” believed Africans were inferior, and how the government conspired to maintain a system of apartheid, including in education.
During a visit to North Division High School earlier this year, I engaged a group of students who didn’t recognize my African medallion.
They admitted they were taught little about Black History, save for tributes for Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. They aren’t taught who Frederick Douglass was (or is, if you believe his close personal friend Donald Trump), much less Martin Robison Delany or Marcus Garvey.
Indeed, the only other Negro history figures they were told about were the inventors, “safe” civil rights leaders and the handful of athletes who proved they were athletically superior.
Most could recite King’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech but weren’t exposed to his letter from a Birmingham jail. And since they aren’t informed of the contributions of Douglass, they obviously never read (if they can read) his anti-Fourth of July speech.
I’m not surprised at that travesty, because when I questioned a white ultraliberal white North Division High School teacher about Black history, her knowledge bordered on being insulting, misinformed and dangerously offensive.
But I was relieved to learn she was an expert on Black History by virtue of her owning several pieces of African art. (Hey, that’s what she proudly told me.)
I’ve reached out to school board members to learn more about what history books are used, but even without reading a single page, or attending a His-story class, I can guarantee it is a misrepresentation of true American and African history.
When I attended North, we were forced to read “His-story” books that represented our ancestors as happy-go-lucky savages who were “blessed”