New York City schools are plagued with deeply embedded racist practices and ideologies. From the huge disparity in the amount of teachers of color hired in comparison to their White counterparts, to the lack of diversity and inclusion of the vast contributions of all groups, not just White people, to the building of this country and this world as represented in the curriculum, NYC schools are sorely missing the mark of what a well-rounded, bias-free education should look like.
While this is outrageous to me, staying in a perpetual state of outrage is not enough. That outrage needs to fuel solutions-oriented action in order for meaningful change in the right direction to occur. That is what two New York politicians have done.
The Daily News reports that “State lawmakers and city activists rallied Wednesday in support of a bill that would require black history studies in every New York school. State Sen. Jesse Hamilton and Assemblywoman Diana Richardson, both Brooklyn Democrats, said they want to see the legislation reach the governor’s desk in the coming weeks.
“We will not allow black history to be erased, to be denigrated, or to be put to the sidelines by ignorance,” Hamilton said during the demonstration outside Dr. Betty Shabazz School in Brownsville.
This outcry comes amid a consistent series of racist allegations that occurred in various schools around NYC that I’ve blogged about over the last few weeks.
Culturally-relevant pedagogy is no longer optional. In truth, it never was. Children of color have been marginalized in the curriculum they learn as students in NYC schools for far too long. Before teachers can teach culturally relevant lessons, they need to become culturally sensitive. They must take a vested interest in the communities of the students they teach in a very authentic way. In addition, a working knowledge of the many contributions Black and Brown people have made to the country and globally is required in order to infuse the curriculum with meaning for all children.
There needs to be a purposeful paradigm shift in not only what is taught, but how it is taught, and who is teaching it. I would take it a step further and put some responsibility on parents and elders in the community to educate all students about their cultures prior to sending them to the school system to be educated.
That’s what my parents did for me. That’s what I did for my children. Knowledge is power. It’s not just a cliche. It’s a fact. We are sending our children to be educated by oppressors and then we wonder why their education is white-washed and void of their ancestral contributions.
As I was writing this blog post I received a message from Zakari Ansari of the Alliance for Quality Education in which she takes pause with the aforementioned bill, claiming that it “does NOT require any changes in teaching OR school curriculum — the only requirement is to get a group of people together to study this IDEA of teaching Black History. Read his one-page bill here.”
I read the bill (please click on the link and do the same — remember, knowledge is power), and it is a proposal for a committee of 13 members to review and make recommendations to the State Education Department as well as to the Governor’s office for more representation of Black and Brown men and women within the current curriculum scope and sequence. That is a good first step, but not enough. I know one thing — I need to be amongst those 13 members of that committee, that’s for sure. How about you?
I encourage other educators, parents, students, and community members who feel as passionately about culturally responsive education as I do to do the same. Email Senator Hamilton and make your voices heard! Speak your truth!
Being appalled is not enough. We must strategically plan our next steps and take action towards arming our children with the education they deserve and require — an education where they see themselves holistically included at every grade level.