Askia MuhammadColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

MUHAMMAD: Critical Race Teaching vs. Truth-Telling

I confess, I was barely a better-than-average student all through school. Even though I always scored in the 95 percentile on standardized tests, I followed no one’s guidance, or counseling, I didn’t care much for some of my classes, and I almost flunked out of high school after I took a full-time job, from 4 p.m. until midnight, loading trucks for the princely sum of $1.00 per hour.

I did a fair job of committing to memory all the lessons/stories of the American Adventure — the amazing life of blind and deaf genius Helen Keller, an amazing “New Deal” which lifted the nation from The Depression, and the Civil War, America’s deadliest, which fought over “states rights” and not slavery.

I might have been better off had I been taught about the amazing life Dr. Dorothy Height instead of, or at least along with, the stories of Keller. I might have been shocked to learn that written into the New Deal was the practice of “redlining” which literally marked Black neighborhoods on maps in red, designating places where New Deal or post-war G.I. mortgage assistance was not available.

I knew about the Watts uprising, because I was there, but I had no clue that there had been even bloodier “race riots” in Tulsa and Greenwood and dozens of other places where Black people were murdered by belligerent White folks and law enforcement authorities in the 1920s.

I knew about Dixie and “Negroes” being consigned to pick cotton in The South, but learned nothing about the preservation of slavery — mentioned 80 times in the Confederate Articles of Secession.

All of that and libraries full of material amount to what I would describe as the “Un-critical American Pedagogy,” or the method of teaching. But a challenge has arisen, in the form of the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), which is: a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of civil-rights scholars and activists who seek to critically examine the place where race and law collide in this society and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice.

But white Americans — whose Original Sins are slavery and genocide — want no parts of the truth being taught about their wicked past. They seem to believe that not saying anything about their evil deeds will make the theft of the North American continent and the mass murder of 90%, of the Native American population they found here, a staggering 55 million souls; and the brutal enslavement and abuse of 12 million kidnapped Africans for 400 years, just go away.

But history, the truth, The Lord, are not to be mocked. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” That’s the sixth chapter of the Bible’s book of Galatians. “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

Indeed, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the country, the author of the Declaration of Independence, a certified “Founding Father” of the nation, and himself a slave-owner (so he ought to know), wrote in his “Notes of the State of Virginia”: “Indeed I tremble for my country when reflect that God is just: that His justice cannot sleep forever.” That’s what I call critical race “thinking.”

You may call it critical race theory, some guilty, sinful White people call it hateful, but the Truth is being made known. The true truth will be taught, and trust me, The Truth will indeed make us all free, including the evildoers.

I was fortunate. I stumbled on my own, upon the “Souls of Black Folks,” by Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, his “Black Reconstruction” and other works; Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s “The Mis-Education of the Negro,” Dr. E. Franklin Frazier’s “Black Bourgeoisie,” the books of historian Dr. Herbert Aptheker and a series of more than a dozen small pamphlets I would buy on the streets like they were comic books, telling the stories of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion, the thwarted rebellion of Gabriel Prosser, the Africans, Mansa Musa, Shaka Zulu, Askia The Great and so many other thrilling stories about the majesty of Black people that I was finally happy that as a child, I’d learned to read.

Those histories cannot be un-lived. Those lessons cannot be un-learned. White people may not like it, or even like to hear about it, but critical or not, the teaching about the wicked behavior of White people in the United States is The Truth. Trust me, it will be taught. Its critical life lessons will be learned.

Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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