Black history is still important and should be taught to all students, not just African-American students. Students are taught mathematics, science and American history because it is important. Black history, which focuses on the contributions that African Americans made in the past and continue to make, is also important and should be taught in schools.
When students are educated not to respect or appreciate the fact that African Americans have always made good and valuable contributions to society in the United States, they are taught not to respect and appreciate the African Americans currently living in the United States. The end result is insensitivity, distrust and a disdain for treating other people, particularly African Americans and other students of color as they should be treated.
There are four big reasons why black history is important and should still be taught in the United States.
1. Racism is still alive and well in America.
It is not possible to live in America without seeing incidents of racism every day. One can see incidents on the news when unarmed African Americans are shot in the back and killed by police, while heavily-armed white Americans are permitted to take over federal land and buildings unmolested by state or federal police authorities. It can be seen in high schools across the nation when white high school girls think it is cute or fun to arrange their shirts to say the “N word” and pose for photographs.
It can be seen when African Americans are told that the reason they don’t get nominated for Oscars is because they don’t have the talent while ignoring the fact that they are not given the opportunity to work and their movies are not watched by those voting for the awards. It can be seen by the unequal treatment blacks and whites receive in the crimes they are charged with and the sentences they are given once charged.
2. Teaching black history is a “two-for”
When the children learn these lessons at school, they go home and share what they learn with their parents. This benefits society as a whole because it means that the issue of race will be talked about in more homes across the United States. Conversations about race are important because things cannot change and get better without conversations. Most parents have had the experience of children rushing home from school and excitedly sharing what was learned that day. This is how many parents learn about scientific discoveries and new ways to do mathematics. This means that the parents learn or are exposed to the information their children learn in school.
The same things happen when children are taught black history in school. When students learn that African Americans have contributed positively to society, education, science, art, law and medicine, it gives them an appreciation for African Americans currently living in the United States. When children study black history in school, they and their parents are both exposed to the fact that African Americans don’t just take from the United States, but also give and give good, wonderful and necessary things. Black history teaches students and their parents by teaching them about the contributions of African Americans to the United States.
3. There is more to African Americans than the negative stories and stereotypes seen on television, movies and the news
There are still places in the United States where students can go their entire educational careers without ever interacting with African Americans. In many places in the United States, neighborhoods, schools and towns are heavily segregated. Often, this segregation is the result of economics, history, culture and tradition. This means that school students have no personal experience to counter the negative messages they hear about African Americans. If all that children are ever taught about African Americans is what they see on television, in movies and on the news, they will have a skewed and negative view of African Americans, which will impact how they treat African Americans and how they view the treatment of African Americans.
It is the job of schools to teach children both factually correct information and how to think for themselves. Black history is needed to give students both the correct facts about African Americans and to teach them to think properly about the contributions of African Americans both historically and currently. Teaching black history in schools helps students who have little or no interaction with African Americans to develop an accurate understanding of African Americans in the United States.
4. Lack of cultural appreciation leads to xenophobia both in the United States and around the world.
When students are taught black history in school, they get an understanding of many different types people. In many cases, they will see similarities between African Americans and people of other races. Additionally, they will learn that there are some cultural differences between African Americans and people of other races.
This is a good thing. The similarities will show that African Americans are not to be feared, shunned or avoided. It is good to learn about cultural differences because it will show that, just as siblings have differences but are still part of the same family, African Americans are part of the United States. When students are taught that African Americans who live in their country are somehow strange, should be feared and not as valuable as other races, it is easy for those students to be afraid of people of other races living in countries around the world. This attitude can lead to misunderstanding, xenophobia and even war. Learning about black history fosters cultural appreciation and fights against xenophobia.
Learning about black history is good for all students, not just African American students. It helps end racism; it helps students and parents; it gives a full and honest view of African Americans and it helps fight xenophobic views. These things benefit all students and makes schools a place where all children can feel valued, appreciated and safe. This is extremely important because educators know, and have known for many years, that it is hard for children to learn when they feel undervalued, unimportant and unsafe. Teaching black history benefits students — not just during black history month, but all year long.