On Minority History: Education Reform For Inside and Outside of the Classroom
By: Emma Zhu
Prior to the call for racial equity with the Black Lives Matter and #StopAsianHate
movements of early summer 2020 to now, there were no course options available in my past
school district to learn the American history of non-white people; the non-Europeans, the
non-pilgrims, non-colonists, non-patriots, or non-loyalists.
In 5th grade, my social studies teacher had even told us that slavery was recommended
but not required to be taught, and thus often not included in the middle school curriculum. Even
with a space at the end of the year for another history unit, many teachers would choose not to
teach the topic and instead attempt the American Revolution, and would always highlight the
Boston Tea Party. This meant though that for most in my pre-dominantly white town, the first
time slavery would have been formally taught to students would have then been in high school.
This also means then, that what can be taught and learnt in the meantime, is racism and hatred,
and that is what ended up characterizing many of my own experiences with other students.
Fortunately, my 5th grade social studies teacher did teach us about slavery, she was even
adamant about teaching us about the subject. She pulled high school textbooks and we saw
images of the slaves, humans, being arranged in stacks, inhumanely under the docks of ships, so
much so that they would have jumped off deck if given the chance.
Before moving away from my high school, and to a different country, we were asked as
part of the student body and whole school to fill in a diversity and equity survey. Questions such
as, “Have you ever seen or heard anyone do something racist or insensitive?” or “Have you ever
faced any microaggressions?” I was able to answer a firm “yes” to.
I wouldn’t have been informed of the results until I had looked for them myself after they
were released in the fall of 2021. I would later learn that most students had also not seen the
results, as the school decided to only release them directly to staff and administrators.
As hopeful as I was after seeing so many former classmates, teachers, and administrators
come forward in support in social media posts, emails sent to the district in solidarity against the
racism, violence, and hate crimes against BIPOC, having what may be the most difficult
conversations in their careers with their students and coworkers, I was once again disappointed
in the results, how only 25% of both students and staff would even recognize racism as existing
in the school environment and community, and want to make the steps to address it.
Education reform is important, learning at a young age why systemic racism exists in
America, and how it affects people today is important. Schools and teachers should be held
accountable, make it a priority for themselves and their students to cultivate inclusive, representative, and most importantly, honest learning environments through teaching the history