Reexamining the Women We Celebrate and restructuring our misogynistic & racist Curriculums
Isssaaa fact that women both in America and internationally have carried the brunt and burden of saving the world for centuries. Whether we use modern examples of Alabama’s overwhelming defeat of a republican opponent with the Black woman’s vote or histories clear examples of warriors and revolutionaries such as the Zapatista Army of Mexico, the phenomenal women of the Black Panther movement and leaders like Diane Nash who helped to found organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee…we ain’t new to this, we true to this.
However our impact on the world has always been overshadowed. What is considered to be “history” isn’t the whole truth ain’t even half of the truth!
His-tory is merely a series of stories about white men who were clearly kleptomaniacs running around stealing everything shiny without punishment. Therefore our curriculums honor the “conquerors” and the stories of radical women remain limited if acknowledged at all.
As a teacher, I’m relentlessly focused on my practice but as an educator who is increasingly developing an aerial view of how oppression operates…. I can’t keep teaching this nonsense.
I need misogyny and racism to be identified and eradicated and for the stories of ALL radical women to be heard. Sometimes I feel alone in this endeavor but every now and then I’m reminded that I’m not.
During this Women’s History Month, two of America’s celebrated elite publications; The New York Times and National Geographic “honestly” revealed their misogynistic and racist past in an attempt to absolve themselves of their journalistic sins.
The NY Times piece titled, “Overlooked” stated that, “Since 1851, obituaries in The New York Times have been dominated by white men. Now we’re adding the stories of remarkable women.”
Thanks we guess…
The list features the obituaries and stories of women from Henrietta Lacks to Qiu Jin. These outstanding revolutionaries, poets and sheroes each became a part of America and the world’s forgotten history. Although Lacks and Ida B. Wells have begun to find themselves in curriculums, their national praise is relatively on a person to person basis.
For the last century periodicals were held as the epitome of historical record for our society. And these periodicals perpetuated the ideas that allowed men believe in their superiority, and create systems to ensure our objectification as we worked for equality. The idea of women as submissive, ignorant and/or not powerful was normalized but we are no longer accepting the things we can change.
In looking through the stories of women featured in the Times article, I was angered by realizing that I didn’t know of Ida B. Wells or Henrietta Lacks until college and the way our current curriculums are set up, our students won’t either. I’ve found that when teaching Global History and U.S. History, unless teacher led, the stories of influential women are still absent in our textbooks.
To keep “teaching by the book” or “teaching to the test” ain’t gone get us progress. The patriarchal ideas within our curriculums will stay because WE aren’t altering them. So it is time that we question why we teach.
Yes, shifting the entire curriculum, is OUR job. If it ain’t us, then who?
“For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It.” The National Geographic asked “a preeminent historian to investigate our coverage of people of color in the U.S. and abroad,” and the analysis featured in the volume is heartbreaking. Not only do they accept that they had in fact perpetuated racism they provided the photos and graphs to prove how their publication supported and help to spread white superiority around the world, for decades.
The volume revealed that they had defined Aboriginal Australians in 1916 as “savages” who “ranked lowest in intelligence of all human beings.” There was no escaping that African Americans had little to no access to the magazine until after 1940 and the characteristics of being “civilized” were descriptors solely for people of color.
Consider this edition as the visual representation of Ibram Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.
Dear National Geographic,
With or without this release… we knew this.
Their reason for releasing this issue was to mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. MartinLuther King Jr’s assassination (April 4th) with a volume that called for them to reflect on their practices and for people to share their #IDefineMe stories on social media.
I get it, this is a first and important step.
Which is why as educators we need to do the same for the curriculums we teach. Since I began reading Stamped from the Beginning I recognize that there were a host of people I was taught by teachers in grade school to celebrate who actually held and promoted racist ideas. These hero & heroines included William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton & Susan B. Anthony. Each of their contributions to literature, science and the women’s movement were infected with the ideology that whiteness was superior, needed to be centered & was indifferent at best to improving the condition of being Black people across the world.
If our curriculums are NOT teaching this, we aren’t telling the entire story and years down the road the Department of Education will have to make an apology just like what the New York Times and National Geographic.
As current educators, we don’t need to wait. We can restructure our curriculums to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.