Ending Racism Through Education

Phil Rossi

Young Boy ReadingAaron Burden/Unsplash

Black History and Juneteenth can save our youth, our future, and our humanity

How can we create a better future? The answer might reside in our present — the children who will inherit our legacy.

It’s up to us to guide, raise, and nurture our youth. When they reach adulthood, they will be shaped and influenced by their childhood. What and how they were taught.

By weaving black history into our school system’s curriculums, we could begin the groundwork for a racist-free society. Except for the Emancipation Proclamation that’s often tied to Civil War studies, black history remains ignored.

It’s an essential history that children need to learn. In turn, these kids will grow up mindful and educated about race relations. They’ll have a better understanding, respect, and empathy for blacks and their history. This alone will make them better people and fellow citizens.

“If black lives matter in the classroom there wouldn’t be a Black Lives Matter movement, because we wouldn’t need one.” — LaGarrett King, Associate professor, University of Missouri

Education could be the most important tool and long-term vision to end racism or most of it altogether. I’m not suggesting this should be the only reason we incorporate more black history.

Black History ought to be taught for the sake of history itself. There are countless contributions blacks have made throughout America’s timeline. These legacies need to be discovered, shared, and honored.

This shouldn’t be about shaming and persecuting whites and the establishment. Rather an opportunity to right the wrongs and correct ourselves. Not just for blacks, but for the country’s sake. For American History as well as history itself — as a treasured science and discipline. A bastion of truth.

Black History is a rich and fascinating capsule. It includes countless contributions by inspiring people from all walks of life. Education, politics, and business. Art, religion, and civic institutions. Legacies that endure and inspire all of us — black, white, and people of color to this day.

There is a dark side to this narrative that includes racism, cruelty, and persecution. The denial of civil rights, common respect, and judicial process. The plight and aspirations of black citizens from inclusion, integration, and fair economics.

Most American children aren’t taught nearly enough black history and the people behind it. The Underground Railroad and Juneteenth — the formal ending of slavery on June 19, 1865, may or may not be covered. It’s events like these and countless others that need to be learned.

With a rich archive and not the place to list them all. I’ve added a few to illustrate a point, unable to even scratch the surface.

Commandeered by white officers, the all-black 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Depicted in the movie, Glory, starring Denzel Washington.

The regiment built a legacy of widespread acclaim for its valor and military execution. It fought battles in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Most notably, in the Charleston area — a major Confederate stronghold.

Susie King TaylorLibrary Of Congress/Unsplash

Susie King Taylor was the first African American Army nurse. She served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Susie attended the all-black, 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment. A regiment comprised of escaped slaves from South Carolina and Florida.

Following the Civil War, Black America contributed to the nation’s Reconstruction — the greatest expansion in the country’s history.

Black America also earned and enjoyed its best prosperity up to that point. Throughout the period, countless started businesses and ran for political office.

Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington were both born into slavery who went on to become cultural and political icons. Douglass became an advisor to four sitting U.S. Presidents.

Washington founded colleges while mobilizing countless causes and communities. His coalitions and influence were nationwide — known to collaborate with prominent whites on behalf of Black America. He’s also credited as a founding father of the civil rights movement.

Unfortunately, Black America has faced hatred and racism all throughout its history. Countless acts of violence against entire communities. Public and private institutions blocking inclusion, opportunities, and advancement against blacks. Countless others, practicing this collusion — all under the protection of the government. A body in place to protect us all.

The Red Summer of 1919 took place throughout the south, mid-west, and as far west as Arizona. In three-dozen cities, white mobs converged on African-American communities to conduct anti-black violence. In northern cities, blacks fought back, negating the casualties and property damage.

Black Wall Street in Tulsa Oklahoma’s Greenwood Section was renowned for its commercial spirit and influence. In 1921, a mob of white supremacists converged on Greenwood. The haters looted, set fire, and destroyed the district. It’s estimated that upwards of 300 blacks were murdered and another 5,000 went homeless.

The Tuskegee Airmen were a military group of black fighter pilots and bombardiers who conducted missions in World War II. In 1943, the Red Tails deployed to North Africa. They also flew missions over Italy and Sicily.

The TA was part of the United States Army Air Forces. It included all of the support members as well. Pilots, navigators, and bombardiers. Crew chiefs and flight instructors. Mechanics, nurses, and cooks. By 1944, the Tuskegee Airmen included 145,242 active service members.

These are just a few of the inspiring stories from black history. There are countless more. I can’t help wondering what a difference all of this could make.

It’s counter-productive to erase and modify our history. The censured history and propaganda found in our school textbooks. That slaves were happy people treated like family members by their owners. The plantations themselves a workplace — a network of job sights with campus environments.

We’re much better than this and have to be. Like the old axiom, We can’t change our past, but we can learn from it. Let’s find the silver lining in our current upheaval and dishonorable past.

A workable solution by incorporating a black studies curriculum. A panel to craft an extensive timeline of historical events, figures, and significance to be taught in grammar and high schools across the land.

It will also be a mandatory requirement — not an option or a suggestion. If a school district objects, they risk consequences. A black studies and history initiative needs to be established and carried out.

It’s time to dig in and unearth the entire archive. The good and bad of black history. The teaching of its depth, the learning of its context.

It can no longer be glossed over and touched upon. If it means compromising and eliminating subjects or adding class time to the school day. Our education system needs to make this a priority. They could make it count by making it work.

As another axiom points out: When we fail our children, we fail ourselves. In this case, it will be our future and our humanity as well.

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Phil is a blogger interested in sports, culture, politics, and the art scene.

Hackensack, NJ

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