The racist history of America needs to be taught in schools

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

The aftermath of George Floyd’s death has exposed the reality of injustice in America to many people. It’s good that people are becoming more informed now, but the fact that many were unaware of the systematic racism in this country is appalling, and it’s due to our education system.

Often in high school history classes we skip over violent events like the Tulsa Race Massacre, and learn cherry picked stories of Martin Luther King Jr. The history of racism in our country needs to be taught, or else we learn a dangerously false notion of America. 

If we don’t have a true idea of America, we don’t have the knowledge to fight injustice.  

The Tulsa Race Massacre is a good example of something that is hardly taught but should be. In the early 1900’s, Tulsa, Oklahoma had a wealthy and prospering Black community called the Greenwood District, nicknamed “Black Wall Street.” 

In 1921, a bunch of white Tulsans went to Greenwood, committing violence such as shooting, looting and burning Greenwood to the ground. They even threatened firefighters with guns so that the fire couldn’t be put out. 

There was not only a massacre, but attempts to cover it up as well. The Tulsa Tribune removed its story on the event. Not only that, but police and state militia seemingly wiped records of the event.

This event needs to be taught despite the deliberate attempt to cover it up. It’s a part of our country’s history and a standout example of the deadly racism people faced at the time.

When we learn about the 1920’s in history class it’s all about the economic boom and flappers, but we need to see the dark side as well. Otherwise how will we understand the violent, racist history of America outside the timelines of slavery and the civil rights movement?  

Another thing we should be taught in school is how the FBI sent a letter to Martin Luther King Jr. trying to convince him to commit suicide. After King’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” the FBI began surveilling him.

They then sent an anonymous letter telling him that he was “done,” he knew what he had to do and had “just 34 days” to do it, which indicated a threat. 

When we are taught about King, we don’t learn that story in high school. Students need to learn the truth so they can understand how much opposition against the civil rights movement there was.

We learn that backwards southerners were violently racist but not that the government was also violent. If we don’t learn that our recent government can be dangerously racist, we won’t be as alert to fight racism in our government when we see it. 

These are just two instances of racism in our country that goes untaught in history classes; there are many more. Like the time Philadelphia police dropped a bomb on a Black liberation group resulting in the death of children.

Like the massive amount of forced sterilization of Black women that happened in the 20th century. Like the Red Summer of 1919 where white mobs incited violence against Black communities in dozens of cities. 

We not only need to learn about these events, but also about how they were covered up. About how police and state militia wiped it from their records. We need to learn about the mistakes that the government has made, or else we are merely consuming pro-government propaganda. 

If we don’t learn a comprehensive history of the acts of violence, espionage and opposition that people took to hurt Black lives, we get a watered down history. 

Watered down history helps no one but white supremacists, because if we don’t learn from history, we don’t develop the tools needed to fight outdated oppressive systems, and then history repeats itself. 

Anna Baker is an English sophomore who can be reached at [email protected] 

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