Last week Lead with Equity facilitated a workshop on the history of race and racial inequity in San Francisco for first-year and prospective university students at Minerva Schools. We started with a lightning 20 minutes of US racial history, from the early 1600s through to the present racial and ethnic inequities in incarceration rates, employment, and wealth. When we finished, one of the students raised his hand to comment.
“I just want to thank you for sharing all of this. Actually, I’ve learned more about the history of race in the US from this 20-minute presentation than in all of my time in school, and I think that’s a real problem.”
That IS a real problem.
The question I asked him, and the question I ask you to reflect on, is: What purpose does this serve? What purpose is served when the history of race & racism is erased from US in our classrooms and popular consciousness?
This month, schools, workplaces, and cultural organizations celebrate Black History Month. May is Asian Pacific Heritage Month. November is American Indian Heritage Month. But the history of Black, Asian, and Native American people IS the history of the United States. Why don’t we have a multiracial telling of history in our schools and our society all the time? What purpose is served when the achievements and accomplishments of people of color are only celebrated during specific months of the year, and not as part of the greater historic narrative of the United States?
It’s important to highlight and celebrate the achievements, joys, and struggles of individuals and groups with these month-long commemorations. It’s also important to pull back from these individual and group histories to see the bigger picture of how race, racial inequity, and the achievements of people from historically marginalized communities have played a role in every consequential event in US history. Looking at this big picture helps make sense of current events and ongoing inequities, and gives us some clues for how we can eradicate them.
Resources on the history of race in the US for adults & students:
If you’re interested in learning more about Lead with Equity’s custom training programs, please contact us!