Sociological viewpoint: East Ridge leaders shouldn’t apologize in light of Black Panther flapShirley Williams wrote a poem in 1968, “A Black Child’s Pledge,” which was a response to the inescapable social limitations and inequalities of the time period.
By: K. Stanley Brooks, Woodbury Bulletin
Shirley Williams wrote a poem in 1968, “A Black Child’s Pledge,” which was a response to the inescapable social limitations and inequalities of the time period. In many more subtle forms to the untrained eye, these closed doors to opportunity and access of resources still exist. This statement is not endorsing every word of the poem; rather it should engage the reader to understand critically the contents and the purpose of the existence of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.
Who were they defending? Why was there a need for self-defense? Were there extreme life-threatening experiences that drove them to extreme forms of protection for their families and communities? Do people know that their breakfast program was the pre-cursor to what we currently refer to as Free and Reduced lunch programs? Was it positive that the program rapidly expanded from feeding a handful of kids in an Oakland, Calif., church, to serving over 10,000 a day before they went to school? They were filling a need in that context that should have been addressed by the school district and state. These should be foundational questions to be answered before claiming that East Ridge High School is teaching their mostly white American student body “Black Supremacy.” Can someone please tell me what institution in the United States black people have supreme control over, lead, direct or influence that harms white Americans from socially progressing? If white supremacist ideology is being discussed, there are plenty of legitimate examples to highlight the devastating impact it has had on the lives of people of color, past and current: education, policy, employment, justice system, home ownership, wealth, entrepreneurship, real estate, family unit, religion, entertainment, military, health and media.
For white American parents to suggest that there are more “peaceful” figures that could have been recognized demonstrate their ignorance. That statement of “peaceful” people implies that white Americans only want to engage in dialogue about black people that they feel comfortable with and where white Americans are not viewed as oppressors in a historical context. To suggest that only black figures white people approve of can be taught in schools is white supremacist thought. To deny our collective history is to keep issues hanging around that we neglect to face. It’s important to understand people and organizations in their entirety and complexities. It also highlights the consistent pattern of people of color having their stories and narratives seized and manipulated by those in a privileged position who will not have the same lens as those who are entitled to tell the story.
East Ridge High school leadership has no need to backpedal or apologize for increasing the social and intellectual consciousness of the young people that South Washington County School District has put under the principal’s care. Raising the students’ worldview prepares them for academic and social success in higher educational settings, which is one of the hallmarks of an International Baccalaureate education in many of our schools statewide. Dr. Carter G. Woodson intended for Black History Month to accomplish a few goals. Dr. Woodson, a scholar and alum of Harvard University, was well aware of the exploitation and removal of the recognition of the African American influence in the development and growth of the United States from its inception. Woodson believed that sharing the whole and truthful narrative of American historical events was favorable toward the ideals our country aspires to reach: life, liberty, freedom, equality. Like today, Woodson knew that the intelligence and worth of African Americans was consistently being demeaned and devalued. Therefore, studying and analyzing the role of blacks in our collective American story would serve as a psychological defense shield against the assaults of their presence and image. Any act to assert intellect on the part of African Americans, specifically, is largely viewed by the majority as an attack. It’s imperative that people learn to celebrate cultural heritage without feeling threatened or insecure.
Knowing the stories of Paul Robeson, Shirley Chisholm, Thurgood Marshall, Gordon Parks or Angela Davis (to name a few) have not circulated to enough people to prevent repeating negative acts that hinder positive relationships across cultural lines.
Brooks is an assistant professor of education at Bethel University in St. Paul