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Racist School Boards. Insensitive Teachers. Black Moms Have Their Hands Full

Friday, June 18, 2010

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Kimberly Seals Allers

Lately, I've been very concerned about some disturbing new reports coming out of our nation's school systems.

In Alabama, a teacher uses a hypothetical assassination of President Barack Obama as an example in a geometry lesson. The teacher later apologizes for his "very serious error," gets a formal reprimand and is ordered to take diversity training.

A North Georgia teacher allowed four students to don mock Ku Klux Klan outfits (they used SpongeBob Squarepants party hats under the sheets for that oh-so necessary cone effect) for a final project in a high school social studies class.

On a state level, The Texas State Board of Education, a Republican-dominated group, recently voted to 'rewrite history" in its textbooks and adopted a social studies and history curriculum that amends or waters down the teaching of the civil rights movement, religious freedoms, America's relationship with the U.N. and hundreds of other items. The suggested revisions include calling the Atlantic slave trade the "Atlantic triangular trade" instead and describing the civil rights movement as creating "unrealistic expectations of equal outcomes" among black and white Americans.

These are the things that really frighten me as an African American parent. There seems to be a strong tide to make black history invisible and I worry black children aren't too far behind on the list.

Thankfully, as a black mom, I've always thought it was my responsibility, not the schools, to teach my children black history. They never really got it right in schools anyway and only seemed to focus on slavery and Martin Luther King. But black history, even an incomplete version of it, really isn't for black children. It is really to help all children learn how diverse peoples have contributed to America's greatness and even to her not-so-great moments.

When one of our experiences is downplayed, rewritten or trivialized by teachers in a classroom or administrators on a school board, it is a sad day for all parents. Not just the African American ones. When educators make bone-headed decisions without thinking through the impact on all of the students, they have to be held accountable.

Meanwhile, every day I send my brown little boy and brown little girl to school, I hope they return without having their sense of self scarred or their history insulted. I hope their teachers are aware of their own biases (hey, we all have them) so that they can work past them for the sake of all the students. But lately, I've been losing faith.

And I give thanks that I don't live in Texas, where foolish men and women think rewriting history changes our present and future. Rewriting history books won't change the limitless future I'm creating for my children, but only shows me how in one more way, black parents have to really bring their A-game to our parenting journey. It also shows me, once again, the unique stressors that black women face in childrearing.

These are the subtleties that eat away at us and affect our birth outcomes and our overall health, despite prenatal care. These are the things that we have to recognize as relevant to our overall health and not just something we shrug off as part of the black experience. These are the things that make me recommit to a healthy lifestyle for myself and my children, so I can be here, strong, healthy and whole, to teach them at home, advocate for them at school and build their futures.

And no one will be able to rewrite that.

 
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