Federal Education Reform Needs To Include Race
One solution to white supremacy is delegitimizing it through the power of education.
If America were a tree, white supremacy would be its roots.
It is going to take multiple waves of different solutions to eradicate the problem of white supremacy in America. We can have laws that remedy the effects of white supremacy all day, but changing the social outlook as well is what is going to have a permanent impact on generations to come. The question that remains is, are we as Americans willing to put in the mental and emotional work it takes to rid white supremacist ideology from our society?
The ahistorical, whitewashed, revisionist history Americans are taught in our K-12 education system is quite frankly abhorrent. People do not know ALL of the histories of this country.
African-American history is actively erased. Hispanic/Latin-American history is actively erased. Asian-American history is actively erased. The history of the Indigenous people of the Americas is actively erased. Why? White supremacy.
We cannot rely on people to seek this information out after they reach adulthood. Is the current lack of multi-cultural historical knowledge due to the American education system birthing genuine ignorance or purposeful apathy of the individual? It’s both.
We know that we teach in primary and secondary education shapes the thinking of the generations to come. Language matters. Phrasing matters.
This is an excerpt from a geography book published by McGraw-Hill Education. The text says:
“The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the Southern United States to work on agricultural plantations. There are around 100,000 copies of the book in Texas, tens of thousands more around the country.”
If we are not careful, American history will become even more revisionist than it already is; this textbook is just one example.
The language in which we speak about America and its history is extraordinarily one-sided and steeped in white supremacy. White American history is the only American history that is acknowledged because that is the single narrative that is given any semblance of credibility.
When contributions of other Americans other than white Americans are given space to exist in Common Core, then we will see a societal shift.
So what types of topics will this ‘racial federal education reform’ entail?
Let’s start with teaching that race is a human-made construct. Even so, the damage done by its creation can prove problematic to undo. Race is not real, but racism is very real. Race affects (positively or negatively) everyone’s perception of an individual before they’ve even had a conversation with them.
Race can even dictate how people view how certain groups handle pain and how they respond to medical treatment.
- “Jews may be vocal and demanding of assistance.”
- “Native Americans may prefer to receive medications that have been blessed by a tribal shaman.”
- “Chinese clients may not ask for medications because they do not want to take the nurse away from a more important task.”
- “Blacks often report higher pain intensity than other cultures.”
- [Arabs & Muslims] may not request pain medicine but instead, thank Allah for pain if it is the result of a healing medical procedure.
- “Hispanics may believe that pain is a form of punishment and that suffering must be endured if they are to enter heaven.”
This is unacceptable.
According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, the genetic makeup of all human beings 99.9% identical. If the races were, in fact, so different, biracial children could not exist.
Using the logic of “races are so biologically different,” in 1850, an Irish person could not have a child with a white American because Irish people were not considered white at the time. Noel Ignatiev, an author and activist, talks about this in his book How the Irish Became White.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Irish people were coming to America from an Ireland that was dominated by a caste system that left them being treated similarly to American slaves.
As Ignatiev writes:
“They came to a society in which color was important in determining social position. It was not a pattern they were familiar with, and they bore no responsibility for it; nevertheless, they adapted to it in no short order.”
A cat and a dog cannot have offspring because they are both a different genus and a different species. All humans, regardless of race, are Homo sapiens- same species and same genus. The study of genetics disregards the limitations of race.
We judge what race is what by what hair texture or skin color the group has, but those are just appearance-based- looking at full genomes from people all over the world, however? Those differences make up only around 0.01% of the variation.
So what does this mean?
It means there is no genuinely scientific basis for racism. Phrenology, craniology, and other forms of pseudoscience have convinced millions of people they are better than others based on nothing but their melanin levels. Rejecting this would allow the ideals of white supremacy to lose its alleged scientific backing.
Once it is common knowledge that ‘biological race’ and the concept of ‘whiteness’ is entirely human-made, it only follows that recognition that white supremacy, as a concept, is a myth would ensue.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of white supremacy is:
“a person who believes that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races.”
Of people who believe this ideology, one could (and should) ask them why? Why are white people allegedly better than the other races? Is it due to the mass colonization of other non-white nations? Is it an alleged God-given right? What is it?
As I said in ‘The Hypocrisy of White Supremacy’: If the only way your race can be successful and ahead of all the other races is by systematically disenfranchising them by limiting their resources, education, and even bodily autonomy- you are not superior. You’re superior because of unfair domination, not due to honest ability.
The Hypocrisy of White Supremacy
“Black people forget trauma easily, anything of malice done to them will be forgotten at some point by their feeble…
Acknowledging and teaching that white supremacy is based on falsehoods will help eliminate the sense of social superiority white people have over minorities. It will also assist in uplifting minorities that have been indirectly taught and directly affected by this rhetoric.
How do we go about teaching this to children?
Anyone believes children are too young to learn about the effects of colonization and white supremacy have had on the world is naive.
If children of color have to be subject to racism starting from the time they enter pre-K, white children can learn not to be racist.
Two major solution trends appear when discussing the delicacy of the approach. The first is a ‘coddling’ approach. The second is a ‘tough love’ approach.
The ‘coddling’ approach is best described as describing white supremacy and its adverse effects to people in a gentle, patient way (which involves a great deal of mental and emotional labor from people of color).
The ‘tough love’ approach is reliant on calling out white supremacy loudly and boldly, without caring about the feelings of whoever may be listening. This approach requires a no-tolerance policy for bigotry without expecting minorities to do the emotional labor to explain why said instance was bigoted.
Certain concepts in the discussion about race are made softer and gentler for white consumption. White supremacy is a pressing issue where millions of people’s livelihoods are at stake. The ‘coddling’ approach would be best used in a situation where time is not a luxury, and all of society is open to listening to the strife of people of color. The ‘tough love’ approach allows the information to be discussed but without using flowery, sugarcoated language that takes away from the severity of the problem.
How do we get this done?
It is too much to do.
It is too expensive.
Why can’t we just leave it [racial education reform] up to the states?”
Yes, this plan will take decades to perfect. America has not existed without white supremacy at any point, so it will take nearly the same amount of time to undo the ideology permanently.
Policies being expensive does not outweigh the benefits that something of this magnitude would have. Just because something is costly or time-consuming does not mean it is not essential. Yes, it is probably going to cost billions of dollars, but it is worth it in the long run. If we can spend billions of dollars on the American military, we can spend billions bettering our citizens.
As for the states, the location should not dictate whether or not the information received by the youth of America is true or watered-down or false. Someone in Vermont should get the same education as someone in New Mexico. Of course, learning about each particular state’s history is going to be different, but if we are talking about world history and America’s history as a whole? It has to be the same.
Of course, questions still remain.
Is reform this size even possible within the foreseeable future? Would most Americans be open to a change this drastic? Should this be something that is even federally attempted? Where do we start? Who do we consult for the different histories that have been pushed to the wayside?
These questions remain to be answered.
For now, it comes down to a reckoning that Americans have to have with ourselves. Are we okay with white supremacy being such a pervasive force in our society? Moreover, if not, what is going to have to happen to change that?
Federal Education Reform is the solution that will work the best due to shifting how Americans perceive race and will be a long term solution, not just a quick fix. It is one of the best solutions to ending white supremacy in American society because it puts raw, unfiltered history at the forefront and confronts the false, harmful ideologies that white supremacy peddles.
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Solér Bean is a freelance writer and an always-exhausted college student. A Las Vegas native, she lives with her mom, dad, little brother, and Malcolm- the needy and greedy schnauzer. She’s been writing for five years about politics, various social issues, race, relationships, dating, and mental health. She is currently a top writer in the ‘Racism’ category on Medium! Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.