Stirring the Mind into Thought

Remember Brown vs. Board of Education, the landmark case in which schools were supposed to be desegregated because “separate does not mean equal.” Another reason the case is so memorable is the famous doll test by Dr. Kenneth B. Clark in which most of the black children chose the white doll over the black doll, gave good attributes to the white doll (good, smart, pretty), gave bad attributes to the black doll (bad, dumb, ugly) and in the end stated how they looked like the black doll, implying that the held all the attributes of the black doll that they just said. It has been 55 years since that case and what has come of it? Most school are still not integrated and the doll test has been redone numerous times over the years with basically the same results.

What does this prove? Yes schools are the gravy of the situation, but it did not solve the meat of the problem, which is self-esteem issues and images of black people within our society. I have a few theories on why education for black people is not very encouraging. First, neither segregation nor integration in school works because black people still feel inferior in each situation. With segregation, black schools were not given the same adequate resources as white schools. With integration, black students are not often given the same adequate attention, resources and encouragement as the other students. Usually, black students in lower education are typecasted as unwilling to learn, slow to learn or troublemakers without even a chance given to them.

Second, the American school system is biased in the favor of Eurocentric history and viewpoints. It is hard for black students to feel as if they are important, can offer something to the world and have self-esteem, if they do not have a sufficient amount of self-images and examples of their own people who have made many accomplishments surrounding them. Black and African history are barely taught in school, instead assigned to the month of February (not surprisingly, the shortest month of the year) when it is discussed sparing amounts. Even when it is discussed, people often revert back to the typical heroes in Black history, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, etc. Most can count the number of significant black figures they can name on their hands. Moreover, it is only taught that Blacks were important in the Civil Rights Movement and that is all. However, we are more to history than just the Movement, even tough it is an important Movement. Many people cannot name a lot of Black inventors, scientists, doctors, teachers, revolutionaries, writers, artists, musicians, poets, prophets, actors, actresses, kings, queens and the list goes on. These people are not the exceptions to the rule, they prove that we have contributed a lot to the world. Today, everyone thinks of Africa as a poor, violent and diseased continent, but barely anyone mentions how it was once so mighty and valuable to the development of the rest of the world. Most of the people I learned about from African and Black History I came across on my own, through enlightened teachers or when I began college. It feels as if our history has been misconstrued or parts erased in order to appear that we did not contribute anything to society except fight for our freedom and rights.

Since most of society and government will probably not be willing to help with this problem, we are going to have to do it on our own. A few ways in our history can be more known is through more books, films, documentaries and one very significant way, African schools. No, I do not believe in segregation, but since black people do not make up a large percentage of the population, society is not going to start teaching this anytime soon. So, just as other races have specialized schools (several of my friends went to Chinese schools on Saturday when they were younger), we need them too, even if it is only for certain days while students attend regular school. One such school (a full-time one) already exists in Philadelphia, called the Lotus Academy. The school’s mission is a “commitment to ground the Lotus Academy program in a cultural environment that enhances our students’ sense of self-confidence and self-esteem by nurturing them with a celebration of their African heritage.” Without this celebration of our heritage, the black children who were involved in the doll test and others who feel the same way will always feel inferior. If we have to learn about Louis XIV, we should also learn about Queen Anna Nzinga; if we have to learn about Walt Whitman, we should also learn about Phyllis Wheatley; if we have to learn about Edward Hopper, we should also learn about Jacob Lawrence. Our history is American history and world history, too, and it deserves just as much recognition and not to be pushed to the side.

Lotus Academy website:

List of Black Inventors:

The Isis Papers: Covering Black and African History: