Nothing saddened me more than the fact that three of my African American female students had no idea what the term “lynching” meant. These were otherwise, decently educated young black women seeking a career in the medical field.
During our exploration of medical ethics, we were watching a film about the “Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment” which took place in the 1930’s. This experiment was responsible for the spreading of syphilis to thousands of African American people in Tuskegee, Alabama.
During the course of the film, the main character suggested that his brother had been killed by lynching. The students turned to me and asked what it meant. My heart fell to my knees at the thought that any African American child in the United States would not recognize what this term meant.
With a lack of understanding like this, it’s no wonder that Tiger Woods was able to blow off the comment made by the news reporter some weeks ago.
You see, the problem is that our children are sitting in classrooms with people who either don’t care that they learn or who have their hands tied by the system when it comes to how and what they teach.
In Texas, teachers spend a disproportionate amount of their time teaching to a standardized test. How on earth do you standardize one’s education? Every person learns in a different way and at different speeds. Some learn by seeing, some learn by listening, and some learn by doing. There are also those people who have testing phobias that prohibit them from doing well on any test. Yet the powers that be have deemed it necessary to gauge a persons intelligence using these standardized tests. They have even gone so far as to connect the teachers ability to get a bonus with the success of the students on the standardized test.
Field trips to the museum, symphonies, and other cultural outlets are few and far between because teachers are in constant fear of losing their jobs if their students don’t perform well. Therefore, many of them don’t even bother addressing a wholistic approach to learning which would include learning ones history, culture, and background.
It’s no wonder that these three young ladies had no idea what lynching meant. The issue here is that if we forget our history, we will be doomed to repeat. When the atrocities that were inflicted upon African Americans is all but forgotten, a new reign of terror is bound to come about: Jena 6, nooses hanging at prominent fortune 500 companies, a man dragged to death in Jasper, Texas.
We must begin to teach our children about their history and make it relevant for them today. If the schools won’t do it, we have to. We can no longer afford to relegate this most important task to people who could care less if we know what has happened to us in the past.
This Black History Month, let’s make it our business to learn all we can and share it with everyone we know.