Is Black History the Right Solution?

February, among many other things, is also Black History Month. When this designation was made, it was with the best of intentions: a recognition of the exclusion of the contributions of Black people in the formative stages of our society. Schools across the country begin each day with a brief biography of a lesser known Black scientist or entrepreneur and all students learn some things that they hadn’t known before.

However, there has always been one question gnawing at me about this practice: does the designation of a month reinforce the “otherness” and “less than” status of Black Americans in our curricula? What would happen if all of our curricula were re-written with a critical race theory lens firmly in place? There would be no “regular history” and then a sidebar of “Black history.”

It is time for all those who have influence over school curriculum to demand that this otherness come to an end. That means a dramatic re-thinking of much of what we have come to know and believe about our curriculum. Those who have been in positions of all-knowing experts will have to shift into learner mode to understand which voices and perspectives have been left out and how that has shaped current misunderstandings and our cultural dichotomy.

When we look at the state of our country and the dramatic lines that have been drawn along racial and economic lines, it is more important than ever that educators own our roles in creating and perpetuating the situation. In order to do so, education must take a proactive stance to undo the misinformation and twisted perspectives we have reinforced — and one month of brief biographies of great Black Americans just doesn’t cut it. Instead, let’s teach anti-racism every day of the school year.

No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

— Martin Luther King Jr.