i’ve been a high school history teacher for a long time. (i’d tell you the exact number of years but a gentleman on the fringes of real black manhood never reveals his age) i have come to believe this:
white children shouldn’t be hearing about slavery, civil rights, and the u.s.’s sordid racial past for the first time when they reach school. i’m not saying a five year old should be able to recite the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, but the reality is, kids notice race. and while african-american parents start talking about race with their children by age 3, white parents on average do not talk about race until age 13. and i’m sure the conversations are quite different. it’s my understanding that a lot of white parents make the mistake of raising their kids to be colorblind—colorblind in a white ass world. there is a problem if your first conversation about race w your child was when he asked you who paula deen was.
i often hear both white and black teachers say, and rightfully so, “i can’t control what happens outside of the classroom”, or “these kids come in at such a deficit.” these statements are true in terms of the academic achievement gap, but they also reflect the racial empathy gap that divides so many white folks from blacks—the lack of a desire to want to understand the experiences of people of color, and the inability to listen w out saying “white folks have it bad too!”
if there is going to be actual racial healing and justice white parents can’t just expect their child’s history teacher to do all the heavy lifting. when you’re coloring w your kid, how about coloring some of the people brown? maybe talk about beautiful brown skin as well as pretty blonde hair? why not give your child all kinds of dolls to play with? why not plant the seeds that racial inequity is the result of hundreds of years of oppression and it’s everyone’s responsibility to correct past injustices?
a lot of folks want to dismiss or gloss over the past as if to say, “look we changed the law, what else do you want from us?” i’m sorry, but there was really never a concerted effort to change the culture. instead folks picked up and moved to the suburbs where they could safely be “colorblind” since it was lily white and there were no colors to see.
i know there are also quite a few white folks who seek out racially diverse and integrated environments in which to socialize and raise children. but the reality is, they are the exception and not rule. i’m not judging. most people look to live in environments w the best schools, and these schools are usually found in white school districts. i’m saying that it might be time for us to reevaluate definition of a good school.
good schools produce good human beings, not just people who can memorize information and fill in a bubble on a scantron form. good human beings don’t think trayvon martin had it coming and they don’t jeer the first indian american miss america for being "muslim".