by Addison Haywood
Amidst the ongoing controversy over Florida’s restrictive history curriculum, it is vital that we analyze the importance of retaining true black history in our nation’s schools. Many Americans have received the same black history lesson: one that briefly touches on slavery, segregation, and the Civil Rights era - but evades the deep horrors faced by enslaved African-Americans and the lasting impact of systemic racism on present-day society. Such vague instruction feeds into the overarching problem: the continual erasure of black history.
When a subject is taught in such an impersonal way, it is trivialized - transformed in a way that receives less empathy and understanding. It is difficult to comprehend a black person's anger towards a certain system or practice when you aren’t aware of its historical context. Furthermore, black history is often “timewarped”; society frames slavery as an ancient event that couldn’t possibly affect the world today, and distorts it to suggest that the Civil Rights Act was effective in ending racial segregation and oppression. By distorting historical wrongs, we distort their impact on society and ignore the derivative injustices of the present. Redlining, police brutality, and stereotyping are all forms of oppression that manifested from the racialized systems of the past. Thus, by framing the impacts of slavery and segregation as being "over" or "long ago," we ignore the problems that plague modern life and separate them from the systemic issue at hand.
In addition, underplaying black history does a disservice to activist movements such as Black Lives Matter. It allows for people to confuse moments of racism or injustice as something that spawned for other reasons; it allows for the generalization of issues that are systemically aimed towards black people. Solutions such as reparations become viewed as unnecessary, because many are unable to grasp the extent to which slavery and segregation has and continues to hinder the growth of the black community in America.
So, what causes the desire to erase black history? A main motivation is comfort. The inclusion of the subject in education is not a guilt trip; it is done for the preservation of culture and the understanding that black people have and continue to be mistreated by this country. It is an important reminder that justifies the movement for reparations. Others aim to trivialize black history as a method to stop the black community’s progression and growth. When we learn a watered down or distorted version of the real thing, it becomes harder for us to understand why systems such as affirmative action are key to make up for the unfair starting points that exist between races.
That being said, what is going on in Florida must not set a precedent in our nation. Black history is American history, and it should be treated as such. To fight back against the erasure of black history, I encourage readers to take courses if offered or available, and to educate others on the importance of learning more. United, we must work to preserve and protect against this attack on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Addison Haywood is a junior from Chicago, Illinois. She enjoys reading and playing basketball and tennis during her free-time, as well as hanging out with friends and dissecting tv shows/movies. She is very active in her school community, leveraging volunteer work to give back to the school that has cultivated her into the person she is today.