There’s a problem in Mason City Schools, Elder High School and other predominantly white schools. A racism problem. And it is much deeper than the ignorant and harmful deeds of a few teachers, students and coaches.
In the February 2 incident at a Elder High School basketball game, students made racial slurs for more than half the game before they were shut down, only after a Black parent complained. Was it accepted behavior? Did other parents just not want to rock the boat? Maybe some of both, but it should have been unacceptable and the net result was that racism was allowed to flourish.
In early December, a Mason Middle School teacher told a Black student they would be lynched by classmates if they didn’t shape up. The teacher was put on leave immediately following the incident. The teacher was neither suspended or fired. She claims she did not think of the impact and history behind such a statement. She is a social studies teacher.
A Snapchat message was sent to Mason Middle School’s black students a month later by a student saying they “hate black kids,” and threatening to “come after” them.
In early February, a white high school student in Mason posted a video about Black History where they referred to Black people as “good for nothing, tree-swinging, watermelon-eating, chicken finger-licking niggers who need to get some jobs.” Students can be heard laughing in the background. No information is being provided about the disciplinary measures taken against said student under the umbrella of student confidentiality.
In every case, school administrations have come out opposing the acts, apologizing to “anyone” harmed, and assuring the world that the acts of bigotry are in no way reflective of their learning space. Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati (BLMC) begs to differ.
The lack of any real study of history — not whitewashed interpretations of black history — but the real history of America, the world and the roles of Black people in it, creates an environment where racism learned at home can flourish, and racism learned at school goes unchallenged IN class. If there is no real study of how America was built on slavery, the Transatlantic slave trade, and the indentured servitude of Chinese people and the fact that the U.S. government has yet to atone or provide reparations for these abuses, the educational institution — in deed — hides this history through omission.
No study of the real terror wreaked on Black people occurs in middle or high school curriculums; not just hangings, but castrations, people burned alive, rampant rape of Black women, torture, land theft through lynching, houses burned, babies stomped to death, and racism and stereotypes woven into every form of media and art from hand soap to cinema and postcards to board games. No teaching that this happened for generations. No timeline is ingrained into these young minds to help them understand that slavery formally ended only 4 or 5 generations ago. People who lived in a world where Blacks were legally less human beings are still alive today. No education is given to explain how poor white farmers were duped into co-signing with racism and slavery,which separated them from their natural and powerful allies against exploitation by rich whites who wanted everyone divided and subjugated.
The lack of study of the contributions of Black people — not just in a 28-day addendum, but as a regular part of history and science classes – contributes to the manufactured stereotypes of Black people as lazy non contributors. The reality, of course, is that Black people birthed a nation not just for free, but at a wide deficit. The education system has failed to teach the truth about and breadth of movements for liberation in this country and the brutal role the U.S. government has played in trying to put them down. History is a narrow, U.S.-centric, Eurocentric, and white-washed history of the world. These things combine to create an atmosphere ripe for ignorance, chauvinism and bigotry.
The absence of an anti-racist curriculum, coupled with regularized racist and bigoted behavior and virtually no accountability is what institutional racism is, manifested through education. This is true for the vast majority of schools public and private, and across ethnic compositions. There are teachers who strive beyond the anti-historic school books to open up the minds of their students and they should be saluted. But the institution itself is abysmal and exists to reinforce the tenants of this system: to continue to fool white folks willing to accept the rose-colored tale of history and a great America, to erase the history of struggle here and around the world, to minimize the understanding of the power we wield as a mass movement, and to train us to accept discipline and accept the world “as is.”
These racist students will grow up to be racist teachers, loan officers, managers, police, doctors, and coworkers. Some will be in position to act on their opinions.
Despite the assurances by administrators that they aren’t racist, little is seriously done to put a stop to these racist acts. Far too often, children get bullied racially, complain to administrations and little or no definitive action is taken. Only when an issue boils into the sphere of the general public and reputations (and thus money and jobs) are on the line, do we see more swift measures taken. For every publicized incident, there are dozens that go unreported. If students of color began to pour out stories, similar to the revelations brought by the #MeToo movement, there would be a meltdown in public and private education.
While we should condemn these individual acts and insist on proper punishment from suspensions and expulsions to firings, we should also begin to step up efforts to demand a total revamp of the education system while looking into options to build our own, free from the influence of American racism and bigotry.
Black Lives Matter Cincinnati, through its Education Committee created a K-2 curriculum to combat this racist society. The curriculum invites students of all ethnicities and encourages pride in our origins and respect for those of others with a unwavering commitment to anti racism and solidarity. The committee has since begun working on expanding grades to reach junior high and high school students. In addition, BLMC organizes Freedom Schools during school breaks and over the summer to provide a vehicle to learn about the history of struggles for justice and forge a real understanding of what anti-racism and human solidarity mean.
However, if threats on students’ lives continue with no serious, public measures taken to protect these students in the crosshairs, then we may need to do more than re-educate our youth. The communities under threat and those who support them may need to begin discussing how to defend our young people from attack.