Jamaija Rhoades | Staff Writer
Sitting at my desk, blankly staring into the projector showcasing tons of so-called American heroes, trying hard to stay awake and wondering why I hate history class so much.
Until I started attending college, history was my least favorite subject. History courses typically left me uninterested and confused about why America is considered a great country.
It was not until after my first semester of African Diaspora and World History during my freshman year that I realized why history was once such a “snoozefest.”
Like many Black students in the United States, I did not see myself reflected in the dense archives of the past. The few instances in which I did know a person who looked like me flash on the whiteboard, it was to depict a slave or a peaceful leader who was assassinated.
Unlike white students, individuals of African descent do not often get the chance to see themselves reflected positively or at all in their history classes. Not only does this lack of information and knowledge negatively impact Black students, but it has proven to have a detrimental effect on how students of other racial backgrounds perceive the Black community as a whole.
When America’s school systems decide to only tell a portion of American history, it leaves Black students without visual representations of their ancestors’ accomplishments. By failing to acknowledge our culture and our ancestors’ contributions to society, standard education has limited what history Black girls and boys are exposed to.
This lack of emphasis and acknowledgment of the rich history and culture of African Americans in K-12 history classes also helps promote the misconception that all Black people are the same. Neglecting to educate all students about the African diaspora permits the rest of the society to uphold ideas of white supremacy, and it potentially justifies dehumanizing an entire community of people.
I remember the impact that learning about the history of my people had on me. Seeing Josephine Baker not afraid to embrace her sensuality made me feel more confident in my womanhood. Reading Zora Neale Hurston’s works and seeing her highlight the dialect of Black people made me take more pride in my Blackness.
Being supplied with images and information of American heroes who look like me provided me with the space and imagination to dream bigger. It helped me become unapologetic about my Blackness.
While Black students can seek outside sources to educate themselves on their history, they should not be forced to do so. Just as white students continue to get spoon-fed information about who they are and what they can become, Black students should be given this same luxury.
Black history is American history, and it should be recognized as such. Learning about where we come from and who we are can assist us with figuring out where we are going.
“Learning the extensive background of the African diaspora would be an eye-opening experience for all of us. Acquiring this information will remind us that we are more similar than we think,” said Eboni Turner, a fourth-year Hampton University student in the five-year MBA program.
Until it is required that ALL students be educated on the African diaspora, the educational needs of Black students will continue to be overlooked. Continuing to not require students to be taught on this subject will emphasize the idea that whiteness is superior, particularly in the educational space as it relates to American history.