It’s 2021. The bubble of white dominance in the United States popped long ago. America isn't a black and white painting — it’s blessed with rich diversity, cultural variety and stories that must make their way into the hearts and minds of our youth. If we want to call ourselves one of the most powerful, educated nations in the world, we need to start acting like it.
Now more than ever, America's education system needs to address its systemic weaknesses and work towards strengthening the informational quality within our schools. Highlighting and interacting with Black History Month is a small start.
Black History Month is a time to educate, celebrate and reflect upon the achievements by African Americans and the contributions of Black culture to our country’s history. However, from the K-12 curriculum to universities across the United States, America’s education system still fails to integrate a total understanding of Black history.
By excluding topics such as pre-slavery origins, African culture, systemic racism and Juneteenth from classroom curriculums, our school structures do not paint the full and accurate picture of the Black experience in America.
For example, the majority of K-12 students are taught about African American heritage starting with the enslavement in the U.S. colonies. As a result, many students are unaware of the advanced economic, cultural and social systems and knowledge rooted in African communities.
White scholars have written lessons, textbooks and narratives for centuries, and these “whitewashed history” lessons exemplify the racial disparities of today and contribute to the systemic racism in our country. To better integrate Black history into schools, these narratives need to come from Black individuals whose experiences, perspectives and anecdotes can pave the way to accurate, necessary information.
While the Black Lives Matter movement has drawn attention to the systemic racism reinforced through institutions, schools will continue with this “whitewashed history” until our education system is held accountable. Unfortunately, sweeping changes are not likely to be made by schools and institutions voluntarily. One step to acknowledging nationwide ignorance, is for state governments to mandate all K-12 schools across the country to incorporate Black history into the curriculum.
Colleges and universities also play an important role in providing awareness and accurate information regarding Black history. As college students, we must take steps towards heightening engagement and decreasing racial ignorance.
Black History Month is not and should not be a popular trend that individuals join to appear informed. It should not be performative by posting infographics on social media, and it is not enough to simply post a “Black History Month” flyer around the campus to spread awareness.
The University of Georgia, a majority white university, is notorious for its buildings and colleges named after racist historical figures. After decades of institutional racism, the recent racial injustices in America have prompted students to take a stand against divisive racial representation on campus. As a result, the outcries and protests of many students to change building names at UGA is beginning to pay off.
Athens is a community that boasts a 27.9% rate of Black residents. We have the beauty of diversity and cultural awareness all around us. It is no longer acceptable to live in a white bubble where students and community members fail to recognize the importance of Black racial history.
February is a time dedicated to the appreciation and global awareness of the Black community in the U.S. As such, state governments and leading figures within the education system should ensure every student access to an accurate, fair and just education regarding Black history.