The Horrible History of Education in America

Part I: Systemic Racism in America

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized Knurd: Right-wing extremists have ramped up their targeting of education to avoid the hard truths.

Read on for moreโ€ฆ

Ever since right-wing extremism has accelerated its rise in the last few years, its forces have tried to manipulate key areas of society: journalism, science, and education.

The most sinister (IMHO) is education. The idea that these forces have seen Millennials and Gen Z buck tradition by expanding their perceptions on things like race, economics, and gender and the right-wing response is to restrict children from learning about these things feelsโ€ฆdeeply menacing. The logic being, if kids donโ€™t learn about systemic racism or the expansiveness of gender, then they wonโ€™t hold these views.

Itโ€™s obviously ridiculous and deeply flawed logic. The fact is:

  • Kids have TikTok at their fingertips
  • 50% of Gen Zers believe traditional gender norms are outdated
  • 90% of Gen Z in the U.S. support the Black Lives Matter movement
  • 60% of Millennials and 57% of Gen Z support โ€œa complete change of our economic system away from capitalism.โ€

These patterns are clear and generational. Thereโ€™s no closing the gate of change.

But boy are they going to try!

And it is having profound impacts not only on teachers, students, and parents but society as a whole. Look at Floridaโ€™s Governor Ron DeSantis (and potential 2024 presidential nominee) banning AP African American Studies for โ€œlacking educational value.โ€ (Sure, Jan ๐Ÿ™„).

Since that announcement, the Advanced Placement program has announced that theyโ€™ve revised their curriculum, taking out dozens of Black visionaries particularly women and queer people. (Interesting how it always works out that way) I donโ€™t know where this story is going, but itโ€™s deeply disturbing that one extremist governor can influence the entire country.

"One Governor should not have the power to dictate the facts of U.S. history," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker
Loved this illustration on IG from Danielle Coke @ohhappydan

The Myth of de facto Segregation

Donโ€™t get me wrong, itโ€™s not like our education system has ever properly taught racism in the United States. I had a lot of catching up to do in 2020 during the BLM protests to better understand racism and how its hooks are still ever present across all sectors of society (ask me about my reading list(s)!).

โ€œThe public policies of yesterday still shape the racial landscape of today.โ€ - The Color of Law

But the fact is that since the first slave ships landed in America, there have been fundamental social, economic, and political decisions that have kept the structures of white supremacy in place even after slavery ended.

It is not and has never been just about individual racism, but the countless decisions and biases that make up larger systems. And each of those decisions has rippling impacts that keep Black Americans at the bottom rungs in the U.S. to this day.

Always Be Learning

Teaching a true version of American history has been challenging because it is difficult for many Americans, particularly white Americans, to fully reconcile the rosy version that weโ€™ve heard for so long with reality.

While itโ€™s natural to feel discomfort when learning uncomfortable truths, itโ€™s an important step in order to grow.

I believe this quote from An Indigenous Peopleโ€™sโ€™ History of the United States helps to explain the context.

While living persons are not responsible for what their ancestors did, they are responsible for the society they live in, which is a product of that past.โ€

Having a clear and unfiltered view of systemic racism will only help us grow into a new era.

The point is not to feel guilty, but to learn and grow so that we can be better stewards toward a true multiracial democracy.

And thatโ€™s why the anti-woke movement is so dangerous. Itโ€™s a way to not teach Americans the real, unblemished story of the United States. Itโ€™s a way to keep the white, male-centered version of history that we have been spoon-fed for centuries.

The banning of books, canceling AP Black History, and destruction of the public education system is a purposeful attempt to keep people ignorant about the systems that continue to harm marginalized folks.

The Past Shapes the Present

I know many people donโ€™t want to touch the topic of race, but it is fundamental to how we address the issues of today. Mass inequality, climate justice, police militarization, and other themes crop up precisely because of white supremacy. If we do not acknowledge these realities, we will not materially change.

Unfortunately, another murder of a Black man at the hands of the police has brought this to national attention once again. But it should never take a murder of a fellow human being (who was just 80 yards from his home) for this country to wake up to the violence and suppression of our Black brothers and sisters.

We are doomed to repeat ourselves until we reconnect with our past.

There are too many historical events to fully due justice to the conversation around systemic racism, so rather than try, Iโ€™m going to offer up some stories. This month weโ€™re going to touch on a few stories to illustrate how racism of the past is still engrained into the present. Specifically, weโ€™re talking about housing and transportation.

Up Next

Destruction Under the Guise of Urban Renewal
Part II: Systemic Racism in America
๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿ‘‘ Defeating White Supremacy๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ for activists & heart-first humans ๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿ—ผ๐Ÿ—ž: Newsletter

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


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