Reaping a “Whites Only” Curriculum

I didn’t ask to see it. I wasn’t looking to see it. It was like one of those Magic Eye illusions from the 90s…I was gazing and then suddenly I saw it.

And I couldn’t unsee what now was clearly in front of me. I couldn’t ignore what I had just seen. And then I immediately thought of you, my blog audience. Yet, at the same time I’ve fought sharing this here. Why? Because my hunch is the majority of whites will, at least initially, think I’m making much out of nothing. You will react as my son did when I tried to see if he could see the hidden picture too. He couldn’t. When I pointed it out to him, he got angry with me saying it seems I think all white people hate black people. I don’t. But I think many of us whites don’t realize the world we live in. It’s our normal. We don’t even realize there is something to “see.”

School started Monday. Homeschool. I was looking at my 7th grade son’s Writers in Residence volume 2 book at the page that pictured the four different authors he would be studying in the course. My eye immediately rested on one author that I recognized, Andrew Peterson. I stared at his picture and recalled what I knew of him. Earlier this year I had written a post on him because of his unintentional “whites only” music video that he later apologized for when he saw it from a different perspective, an African American perspective. Perhaps it was because my mind had gone to that incident that I saw the “hidden picture” a few seconds later. As I scanned the three other photos on the page, all of a sudden I saw it. They were all white.

I grabbed my 5th grade daughter’s Writers in Residence volume 1 book and turned to the page spotlighting the six authors that would be studied in that first volume. I sighed. All white as well.

And I knew. I had to share this with you. Not because I want to create waves, but because I believe I need to. Because I believe the world needs to change.

I’m guessing if you are white, from the South, and have read this far you might be feeling your blood pressure rising at the moment. I ask you to take a deep breath and keep reading. I want to help you see the significance of the hidden picture and to reason with you.

And if you are African American, I’m guessing the hidden picture isn’t so hidden. I’ve directly communicated with two African American friends this past year who acknowledged the lack of diversity in various curriculum is a problem for their families. A few months ago I read a book by a young African American girl who started a whole movement to get people like her represented in the school curriculum.

It’s easy to overlook the exclusions of others when you are part of the included group. Human nature doesn’t naturally reach out to the excluded and bring them into the fold. I’m thankful God opened my eyes this time to see the hidden picture.

But what’s the big deal about using a “whites only” curriculum to prepare our children for the future? Why all the fuss? Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill or is there actually something to my gut reaction that what I saw was a problem that needs to be addressed?

Well, I’d like to ask you a few questions…

Does the curriculum communicate that men can be authors? Yes.

Does the curriculum communicate that women can be authors? Yes.

Does the curriculum communicate that African American men and women can be authors? No.

Hold it! Keep breathing!

I’m not saying the curriculum communicates blacks cannot be authors, but I am saying that what is included and not included in curriculum communicates something…perhaps subtly yet very powerfully.

Isn’t that why we don’t let our kids just watch anything on TV? Isn’t that why we don’t let our kids listen to certain music? Isn’t that why we don’t want our kids being friends with certain people? We know our kids are very impressionable and pickup all sorts of values that are subtly communicated.

If we lived in a country with a history of respecting people of color, having a “whites only” curriculum wouldn’t necessarily be an issue. But sadly we live in a land that dehumanized and disrespected African Americans for centuries. From our very beginnings all the way to at least 1987, large groups of white people in America have outright looked down upon African Americans simply for their skin tone. Following the many years of sowing a superiority of whites mentality in generations gone by, we are now reaping a whites only curriculum. It’s time for our generation to step up and do its duty to right wrongs of the past and help reconcile a broken nation.

To continue to not include this historically disrespected group of people in curriculum is a way we currently continue to not repair the damage done by our forefathers. I’m not saying we are doing this intentionally. But we just keep on repeating the past. We study the classics. We study the network of people we know. We stay in our race bubbles and perpetuate the divisiveness. We perpetuate the belief that we as whites are some how superior by not highlighting how blacks have also excelled. Again, I’m not saying we are doing this intentionally…it’s just the rut we were born into and continue to carve deeper.

Do we have any Christian African American authors that write for children that could be included in the Writers and Residence curriculum? I don’t know.

Who is encouraging African Americans to write? Do any believe they have a voice? I don’t know.

And if my children were African American, who could they identify with in this curriculum? No one. They could learn but only through the filter of a white perspective.

But how important is identifying with someone. Let me give you several examples.

In my journey this past 12 months delving into all things race related, I heard a mayor from California who encouraged people to attend local City Council meetings. I followed this man’s advice and went to my local meeting, with all four kids in tow, with a bit of trepidation as this would be my first ever City Council meeting so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The attendance was about 30 if that and my crew of five definitely stood out. The City Council members were friendly but it wasn’t till a lady on the council looked at me and gave me a very warm smile that I realized how significant it was to me to have a woman, like myself, on that board. I identified with her. I felt more comfortable with her present. And I wondered what it would be like to be on the City Council as she was. She showed by her mere presence that if I wanted to, I very well could be a council member.

The next example trying to persuade you that identifying with people impacts you relates to me having experienced miscarriages. Many women cannot identify with me and it comes out in conversation. But encounter a peer who has had one and immediately there is a connection, an understanding, a desire to reach out and support each other.

Next example has to do with the pink train at Barnes and Noble. Now and then I take my kids to this well-known bookstore where my younger ones still love to stop by the train table in the kids’ section for a few minutes. Thomas the Train is there along with his buddies. But this recent visit held a surprise. All of a sudden my six year old daughter excitedly exclaimed as she approached the table and immediately grabbed the girly train, “Mommy! They have a PINK one!”

My daughter who loves all things pink identified with that train. And it made an impact on her.

My last example has to do with my husband’s and my three month stay in New Zealand back in 2002. We cheered on the participants in an Iron Man while there. When the US person zoomed by we cheered like crazy. Did we know the person? Not at all. But we identified with the person.

Identifying with others matters.

Who can African American children in this generation identify with in their curriculum? Sure, slavery and segregation might be covered in the classroom, but if that is the only African Americans mentioned in the curriculum what impact does that have on today’s black generation?

Guess how much my middle school age son likes to read books featuring a girl as the main character. Not so much. Hates it actually. However, ask him to read a book featuring a boy his age going through out of this world adventures, and he’s hooked.

Books and curriculum teach us more than we might like to admit. I want my children to learn that African Americans are equal to them. But when I look at the curriculum I don’t see that message communicated. To exclude those our ancestors despised is to perpetuate our racial disharmony. Let’s change things up. Let’s get out of our rut and cut a new road that clearly communicates those once treated as property are actually our brothers and sisters in the one race of humanity. God created blacks and whites from the same two people long ago. We are equal. We are all capable for great achievements.

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