For many black children in the United States, June 19th is a day that is not only celebrated, but also mourned. The “Day of Deliverance,” in honor of the 19th of June 1863 when Union troops landed in Galveston, Texas, and liberated enslaved black people from the Confederates that had been holding them captive for three years, is recognized by the US government as a national holiday. The day is marked with speeches, picnics, and a parade.
Schools sometimes have policies and practices that make it difficult for students to learn, including policies that disadvantage students of color. The Department of Education has begun to take action, and the Obama administration has issued an executive order that calls on all schools to eliminate racially biased disciplinary practices that disproportionately affect students of color. Schools can implement some of these changes without federal intervention, but as Education Secretary Arne Duncan says, “We are not going to wait for permission.”
As a black man, I want to start by saying that I am very happy that the nineteenth day is now a holiday! For my people, the nineteenth day is a day of decidedly black joy and a celebration of black resistance, black supremacy and, most importantly, black liberation. As elated as I am about this growing momentum, the realist in me still doubts that our country is truly free. As we approach the year nineteen, I hope we will continue to promote and combat the black hostility that still lives and flourishes in our schools.
I would like to ask – can we talk about our new holiday at school? About the liberation of the blacks? Because Republican lawmakers have done everything in their power to ensure that critical race theory and any educational resources or conversations related to it do not see the light of day. Although critical race theory itself has never been part of the K-12 curriculum, many policymakers incorrectly associate it with any book, lesson, curriculum framework, or academic database that tells the truth about institutional racism or white supremacy or acknowledges the disenfranchisement of black students in schools.
DISCUSSION: The truth about critical race theory and how it plays out in your child’s classroom. I find it ironic that these people go so far as to call critical race doctrine a form of racist indoctrination. In fact, the American education system itself is the greatest example of cultural indoctrination, since it was never created with the intention of allowing black students to develop pride in their cultural identity. Some bureaucrats and politicians have publicly stated that America is not a racist country.
If there is no racism in America, why do Connecticut, Oregon, New Jersey, Washington, California and a growing number of states support ethnic studies programs in their schools? How do you explain the racist school policies that continue to deny black students rights? Why are black students still over represented in special education programs? These are just some of the questions that critical race theory can answer for us.
Anti-blackness is also present in the way teachers control the language black students use in school. April Baker-Bell and Jamila Liscott talk a lot about the prevalence of anti-black linguistic racism in their books Linguistic Justice and Black Appetite, White Food. Many of us who have been trained in traditional teacher education programs need to rethink what is considered appropriate language for students in the classroom.
Very often the right word is a code word used to discriminate against black students and isolate them from their cultural and linguistic identity. Why are we led to believe that standard American English is the only proper way to communicate on college campuses? Why do we check our foreign language skills at the door before entering the school building? When I was a student, these activities were so normal around me that I never questioned them. Now that I am an educator, I realize that I have sacrificed a part of myself to conform to this racist mentality.
Black slang should not be seen as a shortcoming, but rather as an asset to learning. As teachers, we must affirm the linguistic versatility and resourcefulness of our Black students in the classroom and use their linguistic abilities to advance our teaching and enrich their educational experience. Moreover, the affirmation of their linguistic versatility and resourcefulness is a form of support that should be standardized in our education. By denying and failing to fully utilize their unique abilities, we are simply playing the role of colonialist in the classroom and making ourselves complicit in the maintenance of a white supremacist culture.
Ultimately, I am convinced that joy is a form of resistance in our struggle for black liberation. I don’t want to discourage anyone from celebrating and remembering this important day in American history. As black people, partying is essential to our survival. So I encourage you to throw parties, put on black music, be in the company of your loved ones and raise your Black Power fists in the air! All I ask is that you hold that energy when the celebrations are over and look at the prize – liberation. Liberation remains the ultimate goal, and the prevalence of anti-blackness in our educational system should remind us how far we are from that goal. True liberation cannot be achieved for our black students if their minds are clouded by whiteness. Photo: New Africa, licensed under Adobe Stock.