Reflecting on the importance of education this Black History Month

X-ray Staff

“History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past.”

–James Baldwin, author

Similar sentiments may have been expressed by your history teachers over the years: We learn about history to understand the present. Or, in learning our history, we learn about ourselves.

In recent years, increased efforts have been made to diversify the curricula in American schools and promote climates of inclusion in academic settings.

This is due, in part, to the influence of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020.

Following the death of George Floyd in May of 2020, D303 sent out “A Message about Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” to district families. A Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee was later formed in 2021.

In our country, we continue to observe elements of racial inequity in the Black community; in our healthcare system, in our criminal justice system, in law enforcement.

Yet, when we fail to understand why Black Americans are disproportionately subject to mistreatment in the medical field, or why Black men are at a significantly higher risk of being shot and killed by law enforcement than any other group in the country, it becomes easy to discount or discredit these realities.

Reflecting on my years of education in the American school system, rarely do I feel that Black history has been adequately portrayed in my history classes.

Particularly in my elementary and middle school years, all too often, the extent of Black history was covered by slavery, the Civil War and about three civil rights leaders. Rarely were the implications of such topics ever discussed in relation to the present day.

It wasn’t until I began to take Advanced Placement history courses once I got to high school that I felt I received anywhere near an accurate or comprehensive education surrounding Black history.

If we learn about history in schools as a means to understand the present, then history curriculums leave many questions about the present day unanswered.

As a country, we understand the value of recognizing Black contributions to history enough to have a month dedicated to celebrating these contributions.

Yet, we continue to see discourse surrounding the place of racial issues in American classrooms.

Books like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Hate U Give” that portray the realities of racial strife in America have been banned in many places across the nation.

In January, Florida’s Department of Education rejected an Advanced Placement African American studies course—currently being piloted at select schools across the country—from being taught in their schools.

If we fail to first recognize the reason for addressing issues in our country, then how can we expect to see meaningful change?