So, I’m teaching a Language and Literacy course this semester. I’m really excited to be back in the classroom and so I decided that I needed to give my students a brief history of public education in this country, because they gotta understand the system that was built and the role they play in it.
In this review of public education I show examples of the nature of our current curriculum and the ways it minimizes and desensitizes us to the horrors of slavery in America.
I always love the rich conversations that come up from analyzing these questions.
Ok, I don’t always love it. Sometimes I’m amazed at the ish that comes out of people’s mouths. This was no exception.
So for question number 6, a student says, “The only logical answer would be ‘c’.”
So I quickly respond by saying, ” ‘a’ seems logical as hell.”
To which the students says, “But I might die.”
I say, “Dying might be better than living in this case.”
The student goes on to say, “Nothing is better than living.”
I say, “You have no idea how unbearable slavery was.” I continue to say, “b seems pretty logical also.”
Another student says something along the lines of I might do “b,” but I would wait and make sure it’s a good plan because I don’t want to die.
I say, “If you plot to revolt against your master, you gotta know dying is a possibility.”
The student says, “I don’t know. I might just wait. I mean that’s why there weren’t too many slave revolts in the first place.”
I ask, “How many slave revolts were they?”
I turn to the first student, “Name one slave revolt?”
I turn back to the second student.
The student asks, “Like, there were revolts where people were killed and murdered? Like real revolts?”
I say, “Hundreds.”
“But, they weren’t big, right?”
“Some were big,” I say.
I continue by saying, “We don’t teach the fact that enslaved Africans consistently and continuously revolted and rebelled against the unnatural conditions of chattel slavery.”
The first student yelps, “The underground railroad!”
I look at the student.
“That was a slave revolt! It was peaceful. And White people helped.”
I say, “That was not a slave revolt my dear. That was an escape route. Slave revolts and rebellions left master with his head cut off.”
The second student says, “I’ve never heard of anything like that happening. EVER.”
Monday, October 2nd will mark the 217th birthday of Nat Turner. The History channel describes him as:
A black American slave who led the only effective, sustained slave rebellion (August 1831) in U.S. history. Spreading terror throughout the white South, his action set off a new wave of oppressive legislation prohibiting the education, movement, and assembly of slaves and stiffened proslavery, anti-abolitionist convictions that persisted in that region until the American Civil War (1861–65).
There is a reason why my White adult students who are educators in classrooms across New York City find it hard to believe that enslaved Africans consistently fought for their freedom and were willing to die in order to have life.
There is a reason why Black children (and adults) in this country are not taught that their ancestors NEVER stopped fighting for freedom.
There is a reason why the only freedom any of us is taught, is the freedom that comes from the hand of White people, peacefully, that we wait for patiently, hopefully and very graciously praise them for if and when they give it, even conditionally.
There is a reason why White people fear when Black people protest, though peacefully.
But I digress.
If you watch Nate Parkers, Birth of a Nation, you will come to learn that Nat Turner was the best slave that a White man could ask for; he was intelligent, obedient, grateful and kind. He was deeply religious, loved his momma and loved his slave master.
The perfect slave.
Until one day, he wasn’t.
Turner says, he got the message from God (through a series of solar eclipses) that he must, “fight against the Serpent, for the time was fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first.”
In Turner’s rebellion, up to 65 White people were killed, which is considered the deadliest slave rebellion in history, which had the most brutal consequences for those enslaved left behind.
Just a note: In 2015, 259 Black people were shot and killed by police. Consequences? None.
Turner rebelled against slave owners in the 1800’s and the inhumane institution of chattel slavery.
217 years later, some of us still rebel, no matter the cost.
Some of us do it peacefully.
Some of us do it academically.
Some of us do it in the streets.
Some of us do it by the way we teach.
Some of us will give our lives and livelihood for it.
In the end ALL of us will thrive because of it…
If we teach the child about it.
Happy Birthday Baba Nat.