Tuesday, August 20, 2019

By teaching slavery adequately, we can overcome our history

By teaching slavery adequately, we can overcome our history

Slavery still shapes all of our lives, yet students aren’t taught its history
Glossing over America’s original sin means we can never overcome it

I had been taught, in school, through cultural osmosis, that the flag wasn’t really ours, that our history as a people began with enslavement and that we had contributed little to this great nation.”
Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote those words in her introductory essay to The 1619 Project, a special issue of The New York Times Magazine she edited that commemorates the 400-year anniversary of the arrival of 20 enslaved Africans who were sold into slavery to the shores of Virginia. Often referred to as America’s original sin, slavery is so pervasive that its residual effects can be found in everything from the stock exchange to our prison system. Slavery was instrumental in the formation of the United States. It’s crucial that we understand its inner workings and aftereffects; only then can we create a moral, economic and social roadmap to achieving our democratic ideals.
Under slavery, our ancestors were robbed of our liberty, of opportunity to gain wealth, an education, due process, and basic dignity — and all those thefts bolstered an American economy; it was built on the back of slave labor.


Slavery may have ended 154 years ago, but its vestiges remain in our criminal justice system, in the systematic devaluation of our property, and in the harsh discipline to which we are disproportionately subjected. Even as black students stand and pledge allegiance to the flag, they know their country considers them second-class citizens. It’s past time all students learn why black and white Americans can expect very different life outcomes, so that they can unlearn the myths of America and the black stereotypes that bolstered those falsehoods.
The disconnect between students’ lived experiences and what they are taught in school is reinforced by the failure of our schools to properly teach about the institution of slavery. In a 2018 study, the anti-racist nonprofit the Southern Poverty Law Center surveyed high school seniors and social studies teachers and found that only 8 percent of the students surveyed could identify slavery as a central cause of the Civil War. Less than a quarter could identify how the U.S. Constitution gave advantages to slaveholders. And while most teachers (90 percent) claimed they were comfortable teaching about slavery, 58 percent stated their textbooks were inadequate, and 40 percent believed their respective states offered insufficient support CONTINUE READING: By teaching slavery adequately, we can overcome our history

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