“Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
– Elie Wiesel
By Amani Williams, Contributing Writer
To Whom It May Concern:
Over and over again, I’m told that “we have expanded to teach more of a conclusive history” or “we are reading more books written by people of color.” While that is an appreciated start, there are more actions that can be taken to teach my history. This is not a want, a suggestion, or a desire; it is a necessity.
African American history needs to be a required course similar to U.S. History; after all, my ancestors were the ones who built this nation. In school, we are only taught about the brief history of the triangle trade and how slavery benefited America. We learn about the basics of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War, which is often taught in a single class period. It is impossible to cover all 400 years of slavery in a day. If we’re lucky we may learn a bit of the Civil Rights era.
The reality is that America benefitted from the institution of slavery. This is American history. The survival of my people in spite of everything set in place against us: That is Black History. From the capture of Africans from their homes to systemic racism today, it’s essential to teach Lafayette’s youth about African American history. It could easily fit into a history requirement for sophomores. This educational change will not only reduce the insensitivity and ignorance of my fellow students on campus, but a class on Black History will create a well-rounded student who will know how to interact with people who are different without offending them unknowingly.
I need a class to be taught where I can gain in-depth knowledge of all of my history. I need the ugly truth of how Black Americans were treated by their white counterparts to be exposed. I need the whole truth to be known, not just one point of view. I need people to know about the history of the N-word and to not use it. From known heroes like Martin Luther King Jr., the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and John Lewis to unknown heroes like the Tuskegee Airmen, George Washington Carver, and Lewis Howard Latimer, I need to learn about Black American heroes. I need students to know about the depth of Negro Spirituals, gospel music, and the history of blues to current music today created by black artists. I need students to know about blackface, blaccents, cultural appropriation v.s. cultural appreciation, and microaggressions. It is not my job to educate people on how to talk to me without insulting my culture or being.
I shouldn’t have to deal with people calling my head wrap a do-rag or with racist comments. I’ve been called, and l quote a “ hairy-ass n****** monkey.” Since George Floyd’s murder, I’m noticing a lot of students posting things to be considered “woke” but not understanding the full depth of the Black Lives Matter movement or the Civil Rights movement. I need people to see and know the importance of what my people have fought and are still fighting. I need people to know what my people have died and are dying for.
In writing this, I don’t want sympathy but rather empathy and action. When my history is taught in a school, I need someone who looks like me and understands the struggle of growing up Black in America to teach it. Though my ancestors started the path, I am carrying the torch passed on from generation to generation; I will push to further the education of Black history. While we are victims of racism, we are victors of a system made to keep us down. I will continue to push until African American history is as integrated into our society as racism is. As new generations are born, we must not forget the whole of history nor only rely on limited textbooks. How can we try to heal America without informing future generations of the accomplishment of their elders?
Acalanes High School, Class of 2023