Is history all pretty? Hell, no! But it is the truth, and the truth isn’t always pretty. However, teaching the truth is the gateway to learning, understanding and not repeating the past’s errors.
“Journey to Justice: A Critical Race Theory Primer” is a joint initiative between Ms. magazine, the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) and the Karson Institute for Race, Peace & Social Justice. The primer includes articles, essays, lesson plans, an annotated bibliography and a COMloquium conversation that addresses and examines the perils of teaching critical race theory from kindergarten to college settings. Enjoy the sample below. To explore the full primer, head here.
On July 1, 2021, my state of residence, Tennessee, enacted legislation that inherently bans schools from teaching anything related to the truth of Tennessee or American history in all state public and charter schools.
The legislation was introduced in February by both chambers, and in less than a season, eliminated my sons’ ability to learn and interpret social studies organically. I was told that this legislation happened because a white mom in my county was faced with consoling her child because of an assignment where the child questioned her mother “if white people were bad.”
It could have been the book about Ruby Bridges—who still lives today as a beacon of hope. The story of a little girl facing her own January 6, 2021, insurrection is one of the ugliest times to recall in American history. But, IT IS TRUE! This discomfort the child was experiencing could have been easily explained and used as a tool to own the truth of the history while also advocating for doing something different in today’s society. But instead, this mother (or mothers) contacted their state representative and created an educational beaver dam for parents, educators, administrators, and most of all children to shun history. This truth shield works to erase or modify racial history.
The craziest thing about the law is the specific resources named educators can use. The legislation states, “Historical documents that are permitted under present law, such as the national motto, the national anthem, the state and federal constitutions, state and federal laws, and supreme court decisions.”
Out of all those resources deemed acceptable, the national motto is the only item that may survive the scrutiny of America’s racist past. Every other source contains a history that, when interpreted, argues that America is a country that was not built for my ancestors but built by my ancestors. The second, not so known, and popular verse of the National anthem communicates a threat to those enslaved men and women that the British offered freedom (as payment for fighting) during the Revolutionary War. Though evolved over the years, both state and federal constitutions contain the remnants of our people group being subpar, inferior and created to keep us in a subservient role for the betterment of the majority class of white people.
The irony is that I am a Black mother of four children, and I have navigated multiple conversations and incidents explaining and advocating for tolerance and teaching moments in the face of ongoing blatant racism. I have been the one to say: All white people aren’t bad. Racism is taught and learned, dispelling the myth that all white people have racism grafted in their DNA sequence. Instead of running away or making excuses, this is what Black people have done for centuries. This legislation screams, Black children are not worthy of advocacy, and white children are not intelligent enough to learn from the pain of the past to heal the future.
Is history all pretty? Hell, no! But it is the truth, and the truth isn’t always pretty. However, teaching the truth is the gateway to learning, understanding and not repeating the past’s errors. So again, I ask, what’s wrong with the truth? Absolutely nothing if one isn’t encased in fear with blinders to hold onto the past.
As a Black mom, I believe we can do better and that a brighter day is coming. I need you people, the ones who look like me and those who don’t, to help me ensure that that day comes soon.