Thursday, October 23, 2014

Published 10:30 AM by with 0 comment

Teachable moment

Teachable Moment | Yes, We Rise


I was recently invited to speak to one of my former undergraduate/graduate student’s high school history class. It was a learning experience; I always tend to find out something new about the thought process of young people. They were talking about the lives of slaves during the civil war. They had had gone over the event that led up the conflict. But they needed to full in the more mundane aspects of daily life. I had prepared a power point and went to the class.

I was met by a very bright and enthusiastic young lady who asked why did choose my career and if I enjoyed it? How did I feel about the under-representation of Blacks in the historical texts? And how was her teacher as a student?

She really asked a several loaded questions that I had to think about as I was preparing to speak. The class, as well as the school, is predominately Black. The course, African American History, was an elective.

It is my sincere belief that Black students in the United States should ALL have to take a similar course during their secondary educational experience. Why? Because this aspect of our history isn't being taught in schools. Yes, there are the “shout outs” to Crispus Attucks, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Dr. King; but that is woefully inadequate when you consider the length and breadth of the Black experience in America. When you add in the subliminal messaging that we are bombarded with daily. the minimization of our experience, and the attacks on education by those in power, then it becomes even clearer.

The students were amazed at the short life span of a slave, roughly 21 years, compared to 43 years for Whites, the high infant mortality rate, and the fact that they were in fact property. I told them that they (slaves) were basically worked to death.

I continued to tell them that even though societally many things were stacked against them, they survived. We talked about the difference between indentured servitude and chattel slavery. I used the analogy of the elephant and the rope to show how slaves wills were broken.

(The answer to the question, Why didn't they just run away?)

Baby elephants are trained by being chained to a post. They’ll fight with all their will to break free. Day in and day out they’ll try, but eventually they just give up. When the baby elephants become adults they no longer need chains to be tied in place; just a thin rope will do. Of course an adult elephant is perfectly capable of breaking the rope, but since its experiences as a baby have convinced it can’t break the rope, it never tries. This is how circus trainers keep elephants in captivity.

They were uncomfortable; they even made comments. I told them the truth could be uncomfortable, I also told them that they needed to know that their forebearers had a history.

I noticed that one gentleman wasn't seemingly paying attention. I told him that slaves struggled and survived, and now you have the opportunity, to NOT care about the things that many fought and died to give you access to. One of the other students, made the statement that “we were treated as second class citizens, now we fight to get to the black of the Bus!” Very deep indeed.

I see that some of the seeds have found fertile ground.

** Dr. Headley **

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