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Blog Posts

we are more than 28 days of black history

Christina Levy

photograph by chrissie kremer

photograph by chrissie kremer

this past week, a few of my 10th graders tackled an opinion article entitled, “two american holidays are not being taught about truthfully" which highlights the miseducation of history in american classrooms as it pertains to columbus day and thanksgiving. the author, david cutler, introduced the topic by focusing on the way christopher columbus has always been portrayed through a lens of eurocentric heroism. cutler went on to say that students felt “betrayed” upon finding out the truth about this so called discoverer after they left middle school. “my students”, he writes, “felt betrayed that throughout their elementary and middle school years, teachers had pushed a fake narrative about columbus. or they had done little to correct the record.” for one, the students found out that what they were being taught was not entirely true, and two, that teachers were merely turning a blind eye to this false curriculum. sound familiar at all?

there is an african proverb that i stumbled upon some years ago that speaks to this issue without remorse. it states, “until the story of the hunt is told by the lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter,” addressing the way in which africa’s history was swallowed up by imperialism and regurgitated little by little. what we have been spoon-fed are only pieces of a larger puzzle, and that’s if we’re lucky enough to enter a classroom where teachers are doing their jobs the right way. i imagine that for many of us, that wasn’t the case when we were in elementary and middle school. like the students from the article, we all had to make the hand turkeys and memorize the hallmark line leading up to columbus day—“in 1492, columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

the problem, as i see it, does not lie entirely on our teachers, but on the back of a country that is obsessed with painting a picture of peace and harmony without the bloodshed that happened in its own yard. therefore, it is up to every individual to be an active participant in their own learning lest we buy in and perpetuate the falsity of those who have been writing our stories for us. we are more than what meets the eye but unfortunately, what we are fed is merely the tip of the iceberg. we are more than 28 days of black history and sure enough, are more than a single u.s. history unit on slavery. truth is however, i’m not sure if the education system will ever be reformed to such an extent where our history is rightfully taught as american history. what i do know is that knowledge is at our fingertips and as millennials, we ought to use that to our advantage. it’s important for us to cultivate conversations about where we come from and who we were before colonialism and slavery. during this month of february, seek out spaces where you can sit down with older family and community members to see this history through their eyes. i mean, if our textbooks aren’t going to do it, we have to get it elsewhere, right?