We are living in two Americas — but that is not a revelation for people of color in this country. The experiences and contributions of Black people have neither been fully recognized nor respected since they touched early American soil. However, America is a strong country due to the assistance of multiple races and ethnicities. The time is now for you to learn the various perspectives of individuals who do not look like you. It is not in our best interest to continue to tell only a narrow view of our history. We are only hurting ourselves when we do not open our minds to bridge gaps of miseducation to build better connections with each other.
Evidence of this separation and miseducation is playing out in west St. Louis County. Concerned parents from the Rockwood School District are battling over the district’s efforts to present inclusive and culturally conscious content for students. Parents believe it a threat to their children’s development. As a result, there are protests and threats against teachers and administrators for their efforts to eliminate misunderstandings and allow students of color to see themselves in the curriculum and to show them that they do matter in America.
I am Black. I am a woman. I am a mother. I am an educator. All of my identities make me who I am today, and I matter. My ancestors were taken from Nigeria and Kenya and traveled the Middle Passage as slaves to the West Indies and the United States.
Along with millions of Black Americans, I have the right to have Black history and perspectives represented in schools. White Americans need to know the history and views of the enslaved people from Africa who built this great country. That is our history. This is our America.
Educators know the importance of cultural consciousness in teaching and learning. Every day passionate educators see the value of teaching an inclusive and diverse curriculum. They see the positive impact on children. As educators, we know:
• The right to an education is a fundamental stone in our society’s foundation. Much of that for which we stand depends upon its success. At the core of that right lies equity and equal access to opportunities for everyone. That means a level playing field regardless of gender, race, ethnicity and ability.
• We must move away from the idea that a subject is being taught and look more closely at how individuals are being taught and how they are learning. That includes teaching and learning that is relatable and where students see themselves in the content being taught.
To bridge gaps and build connections, we must do the following:
• Acknowledge that we have a problem with race in this country. We must break the silence and begin to do the necessary work to lift the veil of ignorance in America. It is time to talk about how racism hurts all of us.
• Acknowledge that blaming and shaming creates defensiveness in others and does not nurture the required courage to have the conversations to move us forward. Beginning the journey to unpack the history of race in America is complex and difficult to hear.
• Be open to listening to others even when it is hard to hear. This is critical. Taking the journey to understand race and racism is exhausting for everyone. However, that is why we need to address how pernicious race and racism are in our country.
As a nation, we cannot afford to be colorblind and post-racial. Adopting those ideologies creates collective harm. Without acknowledgment, education and courage to take action, the silence and avoidance will continue to break our nation further apart. This work is hard. This work is messy. But it is imperative for us to do this together as Americans.