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Opinion: The White-Washing of Black History Month

The school system has failed Black History Month. Originally known as Negro History week which was started by historian Carter G. Woodson, it was started to observe the accomplishments and advancements of black people.

This isn’t the teachers fault. But over the past couple of years, during Black History Month, only a few people are talked about and the same events are mentioned. Every year during Black History Month, everyone learns about the March on Washington, the bus boycotts, they may listen to the “I Have A Dream” speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Basically, just the Civil Rights Movement. Maybe Ruby Bridges.

It’s Black History though, right?

While this is Black History, it is not a complete Black History. Even during the Civil Rights Movement, prominent figures like Malcolm X are ignored. There's also barely any mention of anything after the Civil Rights Movement. Nothing about Black Lives Matter or the accomplishments that Black people have made since then. Nothing about the accomplishments Black people were making before, unless you count Harriet Tubman. Nothing about womanism, a Black-led gender equality movement. Nothing about LGBTQIA+ rights activist Marsha P. Johnson or other black LGBTQIA+ pioneers.

Some have claimed that this selective learning is a form of whitewashing or teaching black history in a way that white people are comfortable with. There's a reason that nobody talks about Malcolm X or Stonewall. It is strange that we are only taught about black straight people fighting and gaining their rights peacefully.

Carter G Woodson sums it up best, saying “the so-called modern education, with all its defects, however, does others so much more good than it does the Negro, because it has been worked out in conformity to the needs of those who have enslaved and oppressed weaker peoples.”

This issue is much bigger than Gahanna classrooms, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed. Instead of reteaching the Civil Rights Movement repeatedly, other important events and people can be discussed, such as Mae Jeminson being the first Black woman in space, the Harlem Renaissance, first Black female millionaire Madam C.J. Walker, former president Barack Obama, Academy Award winning director Spike Lee, or literally anything or any other Black person. Or we could just do our own research.

As a Black person, it feels like I am being taught an incomplete story. And only one side of the incomplete story. Learning about the Civil Rights movement is getting boring and stale and Black people deserve something new.

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