“At this OK BOE meeting, all the speakers blasting critical race theory and pushing for enforcing penalties for teachers appeared to be white women,” Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah tweeted on Monday. “The lone speaker defending teaching history was a black girl student.”
She thanked the board for the opportunity to speak, introduced herself, and launched into the kind of speech in support of instruction on Black history in schools that I wish more adults were capable of truly hearing. These were her words:
“May I ask you what critical race theory is to you? I feel as though we should be able to discuss critical topics of history no matter how ugly they may be and teach kids how to handle having hard conversations. If we are to move on or elevate to success and togetherness, wouldn’t you want to teach our dark histories so we wouldn’t repeat those mistakes and actually heal as a country?
When we speak about the Holocaust, nobody’s pointing at the German kid telling him he’s a bad person because of Hitler’s actions. So why is that an excuse for slavery? Nobody is telling children that they are bad people because Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson were.
Thomas Jefferson once said: ‘Educate and inform the masses of people.’ They’re our ‘only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.’ We can all agree that he was a very educated man. Thomas Jefferson also said, which we never talk about: ‘I advanced it, therefore, as a suspicion only, that blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time or circumstance, are inferior to the whites in the endowments of both body and mind,’ but yet we do not talk about that.
As a Black woman in America, I can remember my first experience of racism offhand. I was 8 years old, but it seems as though no one really truly cares about my experience, but it’s to kind of care about other people’s experiences except for my own. Everyone else’s experiences matter except for my life. Why is my life political? I’m a human being just like everyone else in this room right now, but my life, BLM, that is not something that should be looked at as political. Why is me having the right to live my life as a Black woman in America looked at as a political game? I’m a human being, and I simply want to be looked at as a human being. And we should teach every child that no matter what you look like, you’re still a human being at the end of the day.
However, we should also teach the truth as well. What type of history are we teaching if we’re not teaching the actual truth?
Are we having a discussion of erasing history or are we going to teach history and do it right? I say we teach it right. If the history is the real issue here, if we teach history right, there wouldn’t be a need for banning critical race theory when it has nothing to do with history.
Native American voices are not heard because we’re still on their land. Latinx/ Hispanic communities are never cared for. Black voices have never been heard, yet here we are still trying. Are we going to forget the fact that Thomas Jefferson and all of our founding fathers were slave owners? Are we simply going to forget that we have Confederate memorabilia statues all around the U.S.?
We won’t have these problems if we teach people, if we teach our people, American people, true history. (…) A survey was done in I think 2018. Only 8% of the U.S. high-school seniors surveyed can identify slavery as the central cause of the Civil War. Two-thirds of high school students understood the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves, which didn’t, and was ratified after Lincoln died. Racism is a system and should be taught to dismantle that system and racism.”
View the public comment portion regarding the new rule at 56:36 and the student speech at 1:21:34: