Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Misedcation of the Black Child

"When I attended grade school, there were always photos of great White men on the walls yet none looking more like my father; and Dick and Jane lived in a house that had a foyer, but I didn’t know what a foyer was since no one in my neighborhood had one. In middle school, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. seemed to be the only celebrated Black man. I remember being confused about the inner-city riots. My parents were too busy assimilating/surviving to break anything down for me, and my White teachers couldn’t find the words to explain why Black folk across America were so enraged. I just remembered the worrying in their eyes and this feeling of not being a cute Black kid to them anymore, but now officially a nigger. By the time high school came around, those same White teachers turned into cranky White instructors who taught me about the Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Sami and Gaul yet left out the Mali, Kush, Songhai, Moors and Zulu. I was taught civilization started with the ancient Greeks, but my social studies teacher skipped the part where they stole from Africa; that Queen Cleopatra seduced Caesar but nothing on Queen Nzinga and how she led an army against European invaders. I learned stuff like George Washington never told a lie, but not that he owned slaves; that Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of the United States by purchasing the southern territories from France, but it was with the help of the Haitians. And then there’s the standard Columbus discovered America, but I had to find out on my own that the Italian colonizer had originally set sail for India and got lost, so he named the Carib islands ‘West India’ to save face. I even learned about the Jewish holocaust ‘til I could recite pages off Anne Frank’s diary. But the on-going African holocaust was kept out of my textbooks and classroom discussions.

Like most African and West Indian American teens, I graduated high school having learned absolutely nothing about myself except that I started off as a slave from a savage continent, struggled through Jim Crow Laws, moved north for better job opportunities and was finally allowed to vote, thanks to the Civil Rights Movement. Other than that, I was invisible."

Excerpt from my book, Message to a Youngblood

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