The map above demonstrates just how endangered Black history is in the United States today. You can examine it more closely courtesy of a recently updated article by Sarah Schwartz at Education Week. Basically, though, the dark blue represents states where there are existing laws right now about what you can teach, and the dark yellow is states where similar laws are moving through the legislatures.
According to the EdWeek article which the map illustrates, most of the bills are copycats of a Trump executive order banning certain kinds of diversity training. Many refer to “critical race theory,” which is a complex and nuanced academic theory originated by (mostly) Black scholars, and has nothing to do with the curriculum of virtually any K-12 school. Many are specifically designed to make sure students “are not made uncomfortable” by what they learn in schools, and don’t have to contend with “divisive concepts” like “Tulsa, Oklahoma had a thriving Black community known as Black Wall Street, which was destroyed in 1921 by a vicious racist mob, and hundreds of people died.” That’s “divisive” not because there’s any question about the facts, but because the lawmakers and their supporters don’t want their kids to know about it–or maybe they just don’t want to answer their kids’ questions. And by “students,” the lawmakers of course mean white students, because (apparently) if a Black child feels uncomfortable because her history is still being erased, that’s fine.
Teachers have been fired, books have been banned from libraries and classrooms, and of course there is pushback from sensible people (of all races). But the juggernaut of censorship is juggernauting along. And it’s far from limited to the United States; many countries from India to Poland are engaged in suppressing any part of their own history that their citizens cannot just be uncomplicatedly proud of.
Here at home, The African-American Policy Forum is not the only group to ask “Is this the last Black History month?” The AAPF’s #truthbetold campaign is one good place to look for information, resources, and calls to action. Facing History and Ourselves is another terrific organization doing the work.
Here at Body Impolitic, Laurie and I have been supporters of Black History Month for all the nearly two decades we’ve been blogging, and we don’t intend to stop. We post about Black history several times a year. This particular February we’ve been caught up with other immediate issues in our personal and professional lives, including the release of our Fat Studies article (which looks at fat oppression in–among other contexts–the context of anti-Black racism). We will continue to post about Black history, both in general, and when specific subjects catch our eye. If you’re looking for a moment of Black history (or gender history, or legal history) right now, you can check out this post on the redoubtable Pauli Murray.
Meanwhile, if you live in a state that is considering one of these laws, or a state that has passed one, fight back. Lobby, march, donate, support. The preservation of honest history is everyone’s fight; change doesn’t happen from the sidelines.
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