Contrary to popular belief, our system is not broken. It is functioning exactly how it is supposed to, which many Americans fail to realize due to the ignorance and manipulation of wealthy, white people in power. The United States of America was built upon and continues to reap the benefits of stolen land, stolen labor and abused human lives.
Black History Month can be a frustrating and upsetting time for many people, especially Black Americans. Dedicating a singular month out of our calendar year to Black history does not really make sense, considering the well-proved notion that American history simply is Black history. Why does it take people until February to celebrate and welcome the countless Black artists, businesses, celebrities and historians into a celebratory and admirable category? They should be celebrated every day and in every way.
On Feb. 16, 2021, I had the pleasure of attending one of the Drexel Chai Chats, which happened to be focused on Black History Month. The title of the chat was “Black History: More than a month,” and I spoke with other Drexel students about different aspects of Black history and the month dedicated to Black Americans.
One particular focus that allowed for an interesting and informative discussion was how American history is taught—or rather, how it isn’t taught. American history is white-washed. There is no denying it. The slave rebellions, economic growth, power and the treatment of slaves is romanticized and downplayed severely. We were lied to. We need to take responsibility.
American history is written to please and protect white people. It is written to keep white children and their parents comfortable. A quick public service announcement though, for anyone who wasn’t aware: History is supposed to make you uncomfortable. By teaching young children the truth about American history, we are teaching them empathy. Explaining slavery and racism to a young, impressionable child eliminates a crucial part of systematic racism; it allows for growth and change in future generations.
The reason the education system and political leaders of this country avoid such honesty is that instilling and teaching empathy in young white children will ultimately change how society functions. Empathy towards Black people can and will create the change we so desperately need. However, the system and those in power do not want this. They reap the benefits of oppressed minorities and changing that would take power and wealth from them.
Drexel Chai Chats is a fairly new organization sponsored by Drexel’s Student Center for Diversity and Inclusion and run by Drexel student leaders Rowan Sheridan and Zack Levy-Dyer. The organization and its conversation series aim to bring awareness to and have the difficult conversations about numerous pressing issues that affect society and Drexel’s students and staff. Racism, mental health, gun violence, domestic violence, gentrification, voter suppression, homelessness and displacement are just some of the topics we hardly hear enough about—but we should.
This country and the education system in place continues to manipulate us and use the habitual abuse and torture of Black Americans to keep the system functioning the way it has since its origin. I am frustrated because I cannot comprehend why it took me until my sophomore year of college, in a specialized history and sociology class I selected for myself, to learn even a sliver of how Black people were treated in this country and how racism originated in Western civilization.
The disgusting, gut-wrenching history of this nation and the treatment of Black people in the U.S. needs to be taught. It cannot be ignored any longer, and it should not be taught in a way that diminishes the horrendous treatment of slaves and BIPOC in America. We are being blinded, and it is in our hands to demand that accurate information be taught to us.
It is our duty to self-educate and undo what our ancestors did. We need to change how we perceive and teach history. I hope you are uncomfortable. You should be.