Black History

Hey all, sorry I haven’t done the blog thing for a while now. I guess I just haven’t been inspired lately… until now!

Take a look at this article. If you’re too lazy to read it yourself, it is essentially saying that the black teacher who usually teaches the black history course at Oberlin High School in Ohio has had to be replaced (as teacher of that course) by a white teacher >gasp!< due to "scheduling conflicts."

Apparently, a significant number of people are protesting this move the school has made, saying that having a white teacher teach black history "sends the wrong message." It seems the primary concern is for the "minority" students, that they will somehow be demoralized.

Frankly, I am quite surprised this question has come up. Another article says the question of whether only African Americans should teach black history has “bedeviled educators for years.” Although an interesting theoretical question (that is, weighing the pros and cons of an African American teaching black history as opposed to a white person), I see no real reason to discriminate against one group in favor of another.

A director at Oberlin college is quoted as saying that if there are two equally-qualified teachers, one black and one white, he would give the black one the edge because it is part of their culture. While the statement that black history is “part of their culture” is certainly true, that does not automatically mean that the black person should be preferred. If the two are indeed equally qualified (as I am assuming the two are in the Oberlin case), why would there be any kind of problem? There should be no problem with switiching those teachers in and out of that course.

Here’s an interesting question: What if there was a white teacher who has an MA in African American studies and a black teacher who has a BA in history and they are both considered for teaching the black history course? The white teacher is probably technically more qualified, but the black teacher (supposedly) has that “black culture.” By the way, I’ve known some black people (as well as people of other races) who don’t fall into some stereotypical “culture.”

The point I want to make concerning the whole “culture” thing is that, in a high school class, there is only so much you can cram in. I teach high school Bible classes at a Christian school. My area of specialty in school was Biblical Studies. I hardly use any of my technical knowledge of the Bible in the Bible classes. It’s just too much for high school levels. The same is true in any subject area. In the area of African-American studies, I don’t know how much of that extra “cultural” stuff is necessary. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see how a white teacher could teach that class any worse or be any less of a role model than a black teacher with the same qualifications.

Another argument, which is so outrageous (and these newspapers know it! they put it at the end of the article to get people ticked off!), I’m just going to quote the Marion Star article, quoting Phyllis Hogan:

“Phyllis Yarber Hogan, a member of the Oberlin Black Alliance for Progress, said a white teacher wouldn’t be well-suited to teaching students about subjects like slavery.

“‘When you talk about slavery, students need to understand it is not our fault,” she said. “Our ancestors did nothing wrong to be enslaved.

“‘How do you work through that when the person teaching it is the same type of person who did the enslaving?’”

If I taught a black history course (and maybe I will someday!)(oh yeah, if you didn’t know, I’m a whitey) and came to a unit on the enslavement of the African people, I would hardly blame the slavery on black people. Who does that by the way? I haven’t heard anyone say it was the black people’s own fault they were enslaved… (again, I may be wrong; this may be some widespread belief. I’ve never heard it though). If I were teaching, I would be deeply apologetic and promote reconciliation between the races.

In fact, that’s how I am whenever the question comes up. My race wronged the black race. My race enslaved them. My race has sinned grievously. I am profoundly sorry and I want nothing less than full reconciliation. If forgiveness is impossible, I at least ask for fairness. Although it was my race that did those horrible things, it wasn’t me that did them.

I ask that blacks remember that two wrongs do not make a right. Racism is still rampant in America today, but it is not primarily centered in the white community. This is so un-PC, but there is a lot of racism against white people, and it’s not just black people who are being racist.

Of course all this varies from community to community. There are plenty of racist whites out there, too. I just think that the centers of racism are shifting to the minority communities. This, at least, has been born out in my community. I think I have only been acquainted with one white person who is only a little discriminatory (I wouldn’t even say this person is racist). On the other hand, I’ve come across several people who are minorities (some of whom are actually good friends) who have an ingrained racism against whites (stereotypes, misconceptions, political views; the whole bit).

Of course, we Americans are living with a legacy. And legacies, as we all know, aren’t easily thrown off. They’re legacies, for crying out loud! And that woman who made that outrageous statement about white people being the same kind of people as those who enslaved blacks (by that statement, I am guessing she means that we white people are white and all the slavers were white – which isn’t true, by the way – but that statement is unfortunate, because it sounds like enslaving others is something inherent to white people and that they cannot understand the position of those enslaved) would probably say to me that I just do not understand and cannot relate, because it didn’t happen to “my people.”

My answer is that my primary identification is not “white.” My identity lies in the fact that I am a child of God, and my God is just as mad that slavery ever happened as any of us. I can truly say that I am not racist in any way because that is not how I see people. We belong to God and the question is, will we turn to him?

I think only true reconciliation comes through God and if you are a Christian and have some kind of racial problem, you really need to pray about it, because it’s wrong. It’s not Christian. God’s love is for us all. It is just as unending for a black person as it is for a latino or white or asian person.

So I guess my question is, is our goal reconciliation? Or is it something else? I would specify my question to black people by asking, is your goal reconciliation and restoration or is it revenge? For white people who have racist issues, do you wish for reconciliation or not? For white people all too eager to give up their equality for the sake of “reconciliation,” I ask, do you really want reconciliation or are you just scared to defend your own rights?

This all boils down to having a moral foundation. Do we have a moral touchstone to go back to? If we don’t we’ll just be see-sawing our way through history, wreaking vengeance on each other in our turn until we simply destroy each other.