All Americans need education in Black studies

Knowledge has to be grounded in context, and specifically knowledge of black history has to be presented in a context of why blacks specifically have had to fight for equal rights in voting, employment, and even the ‘privilege’ of sitting on the bus or using a public restroom. Without that context, “Black History” is just a bunch of names and facts to be as quickly forgotten as the list of Constitutional signatories or the less-than-famous battles of World War II. If “the desired effect” is attitudinal change and a comprehension of the challenges faced by blacks (and other minorities, despite the fact that you don’t want to talk about them) then you need to “crowd out ignorance” more thoroughly by providing a good foundation instead of asserting that you can just tell students a litany of obstacles and crimes suffered by blacks throughout American history and assume that they will reformulate their world view about the underlying causes.

I say this from experience because for a long time I felt (as many do) that most of the problems black people face are a result of a lack of hard work and lack of value in education without having any real comprehension of systemic discrimination and the cultural and economic limitations that produces, and it took even longer to learn that even when blacks did develop their own essentially independent economic and social systems to lift themselves up, they would be intentionally and often violently destroyed. I went to a high school my senior year that had a mostly black student population which is where I first heard about Juneteenth, but quite honestly until a few years ago I assumed it was a local thing and had no idea that this was a quasi-official holiday that is celebrated around the country. Now, you can teach students these things as ‘facts’ but it is only going to make an impression if you place it in the context of a country that was specifically built for the preservation of white male landowners, many of whom were so protective of the institution of human slavery that they tried to break the country in half over it.

When people respond with “All Lives Matter” they’re literally trying to shut down the discussion and insinuate that black people are trying to claim some special privilege instead of what Black Lives Matter is actually trying to do in highlighting a specific problem (disproportionate and excessive police violence against blacks, many of whom are not suspected of any violent crime). Nobody here is trying to shut down any discussion except for the o.p. by literally saying, “Wrong response!” to anyone they don’t agree with.


I haven’t forgotten the enthusiasm of Black students in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s advocating for an academic department specifically devoted to Black studies. Without the specifically Black focus, the message gets so diluted that it becomes easy to ignore. I think they were right to do so and I want to see that tradition carried forward today.

Debate means I get to say when I think you’re wrong, and you get to say back to me why you think I’m wrong. My voice is not less than another’s. Come on and tell me why you think I’m wrong. Don’t upset the chess board just because you don’t like how the game is going.

I don’t think anyone objects to this premise. In fact, I think I said the same.

Your suggestion of a mandatory one semester class is one way to accomplish this, but not the only way.

I believe Stranger has covered “Why you are wrong” quite succinctly.

The inclusion of Black studies in the curriculum, as seen so far, is not enough. The evidence is otherwise intelligent, educated Americans unable to recognize racism when it’s staring them in the face, as we’ve been seeing in threads like The SDMB needs to have a banned words list

I want to emphasize to all well-meaning individuals like Whack-a-Mole that this isn’t a personal attack on you, it is no reflection on your character, it’s a failure of society.

This is my idea of how to correct it. Because what’s been done so far isn’t enough. Racism is the old evil, the source of the fascistic cancer threatening to kill our democracy, and we need bold steps to act against it now. Especially in the face of government-mandated ignorance like in Florida.

Worth a try. Have at it.


Nobody has suggested it is so. On the other hand, you’ve tried to shut down others by dismissing them with “Wrong response!” and narrowly confining any discussion to only that of black studies with no discussion of if or how that should be in a larger context.

To the extent that I think your proposal is overly restrictive and unlikely to achieve the desired result, I have done so. You haven’t responded to specifically to those statements but your responses to others have been to dismiss them as off-topic or to claim that disagreement is paramount to veiled racism when, in fact, nobody here has said that your basic premise is without merit. This is just more witnessing instead of an appeal to actual debate.


The problem of racism requires a multi-generational fix. Kids learn far more about this from their parents than from any schooling. School curriculum can always be improved, but until the vast majority of racist parents die off the problem will never go away, and that’s going to take a really long time if it ever happens…

Well, you’re sure wrong about that. I’m debating in good faith. When I think you’re wrong, I get to say so. Then you get your turn to tell me I’m wrong. That’s what we’re doing.

To “all lives matter,” the only response is “Wrong answer!” because it’s a thought-stopping cliché. I really did feel like “All studies matter” was one of the attitudes developing here.

If your arguments are different from “all lives matter,” I welcome your explanations of why. Argue against me. I get to argue back. Then you get to argue back. That’s fair.

My daughter recently graduated high school and my son is still in high school now. At least in Louisiana public schools, this integration has already taken place, especially in English/literature courses. And it’s not just a few months here and there – the Black-studies-integrated materials are consistently delivered throughout the school year.

You’re a White American, right? And your audience on this boards is predominately (although by no means exclusively) other White Americans.

Do you see any irony in your saying, on the one hand, that we need to be taking in the perspective of Black thinkers; and on the other, offering none of that in your OP, instead just offering your White American hot take?

I’m a White guy who teaches, and I’m somewhat versed in my Zaretta Hammond and my Ibrim X. Kendi and other Black intellectuals who study education and advocate for racial justice in our schools. And I’ve never read or heard any Black voice make the claims in your OP.

If I’ve missed someone–if, specifically, there are significant Black activists who say “a course in Black studies should be required in all schools”, that a “full semester 3-credit hour course devoted to Black studies” should be required “For all Americans, no exceptions,” I’d love to see a cite. Not to someone saying something vaguely related–to someone making this precise claim.

Otherwise, I think there’s some pretty significant irony going on in the way you’re approaching racial justice. What I HAVE heard, over and over, is that Black activists don’t want White folks stepping out in front of them and deciding they have the One True Way to fight racism; rather, they’d like White folks to listen to the experiences of Black people and see our role not as the vanguard, but as allies.

I think kids (especially those who get a good education) can turn away from the worst aspects of their parents. Even people here at the SDMB have described racist attitudes of their parents that they have moved passed. In fact, at a certain age, kids love to challenge the beliefs of their parents. I’m not saying having racist parents isn’t a problem, but it can be overcome.

Can’t wait for racist parents to die off. We already tried that and it failed. God-damned racism has dug in its heels and built back up. It’s now approaching a major crisis point. We need more decisive action. Instilling knowledge in young minds is the surest way to correct the problem. Like I said, as much as I hated math class, it did me no harm and I even benefited. With maturity I can look back and understand that now better than when I was a 3rd grader.

Not one person in this thread has said this, even indirectly.

It sounds like you think that educating kids will override what they see and hear at home. Is there any evidence that will actually happen?

Well, kind of? I’ve seen polls that show the children of Evangelical Christians are more accepting of gay people then their parents were. But I don’t think that has anything to do with what they’re learning in school.

There’s tons of evidence that doing nothing is making it worse.

Considering how mass educational programs have gone in other countries in the face of resistance, like Atatürk’s law requiring everyone to learn the Latin alphabet for Turkish. Oh, the reactionaries at the time hated it. But now everyone accepts it as ordinary, no big deal. Yes, to spread knowledge will overcome ignorance. Otherwise, why is there education?

I took AP US History in the 1980s and my daughter took it in the 2010s. The material has changed markedly to incorporate more of Black US History. Back in the 1980s – at least at my school – even to learn the context of DuBois’ actions and writings required a deep dive into materials at the library. He’d get a cursory mention in a school-assigned textbook at best.

IMHO the solution to fighting racism is not mandating a course in Black studies but having a consistent series of courses in the Humanities (philosophy, history, art, etc).

I doubt we can ever erase racism but I think the above would be a better route than teaching the history of a particular race.

I think a course on the history of the US must include the Black experience.

(That said, courses about the experiences of particular races should exist too…again IMHO.)