“If we would start telling the truth in schools, we would not have racism. We could cure racism in this country” —Jane Elliott
These words by anti-racist educator Jane Elliott are taken from her appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1992 as part of a rebuke where she informs the audience of the many uncelebrated contributions by people of color to civilization. She takes to task a school system that she labels “racist” for overstating the achievements of Europeans and deliberately reinforcing the notion of White supremacy. It’s hard to argue with her logic.
In fact, I see no lies here.
As a former high school world history teacher in an urban district, and socio-politically conscious Black male, I’ve often struggled with how to deliver such a Eurocentric curriculum to students who descend primarily from African, Asian and Latin American countries. It’s a challenge that takes cognition and resolve.
FINDING EVERY STUDENT’S PLACE IN HISTORY
I’ve always liked to think of history as one big group picture, similar to one you’d take at your family reunion. As soon as it’s taken and shown, the first thing everyone wants to know is, “Where am I?” When we crop out certain groups of people, we inadvertently tell them they don’t belong or their stories are unimportant.
From the outset of my class I’d promise, “Everybody is going to learn about themselves in here.” I didn’t just mean individually, but historically, because my belief is we all come from great people.
What is apparent however, is that most are not exposed to history from diverse perspectives. One could get upset at the likes of Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) for saying White people are hated by Blacks because they’re successful and Black people aren’t. Or at Rep. Steven King (R-IA) who contended that Whites have contributed more to modern civilization than any other subgroup. But honestly, can you blame them? What information have they received to the contrary in their educational career?
If journalist Roland Martin’s epic takedown of alleged “alt-right” (I prefer neo-nazi) front man Richard Spencer tells us anything, it’s that the belief in White Supremacy has been facilitated through a severe miseducation process. It’s the only thing that makes the myth of racial superiority believable. A true historical examination of the aforementioned claims would most certainly force a shift in paradigm.
I’d be willing to guess believers in this ideology have likely never been exposed to a historical education where Europe is not completely centered. Or exposed to authors like Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop, Martin Bernal, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, or Basil Davidson.