By Nehemiah D. Frank
As a middle school teacher and founder of a fast-growing, publishing company, I often have very little time for personal reading. However, during the summer months and various breaks throughout the school year, I make perusal my mission. So, this winter break, I delved into The Classic Slave Narratives.
In reading, I came across the most outlandish passage which causes one to remember the importance of having a black teacher in the classroom.
“I had often observed, that when her mother washed her face it looked very rosy; but when she washed mine it did not look so; I therefore tried oftentimes myself if I could not by washing make my face of the same color as my little play-mate(Mary), but it was all in vain; and I now began to be mortified at the difference in our complexions. (Equiano, 1794, p.64)”
The excerpt above: The Life of Olaudah Equiano, edited by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Equiano may have felt ashamed of his — kissed by our skillful and rather thoughtful Creator, with love — ebony skin, but beyond the surface of his shattered feelings, the passage discloses the psychological detriments occurring to his young and vulnerable, Black mind.
Little did his self-described benevolent and virtuous master’s mistress, who acted impart as a pedagogical influence, could have ever imaged the implementation on how white superiority was internalizing beneath the surface, in Olaudah.
“This woman behaved to me with great kindness and attention; and taught me every thing in the same manner as she did her own child, and indeed in every respect treated me as such. (Equiano, 1794, p.64)”
One can easily smile, thinking: At least, Olaudah had it easier than the harsh treatment the majority of black slaves received during that wicked and horrible era. Yet! Under the surface in the tiniest confinements of his mind, the damage uncoiling itself like a venomous serpent.
In the end, Olaudah considered himself unworthy, even of life itself; because although he would become a learned man, he would never come to understand the feeling of self-actualization of whiteness.
Reading slave narratives bring-about excellent insight on the internalization of white superiority and the psychological detriments it may bring to some black children. Hence, diversity is vital in preventing the pathologies of internalized racism from infiltrating classrooms.
The recommendation is clear. By hiring more Black teachers and diversifying school curriculum in the areas of Social Science, History, and English literature we can literally-carve and rid racism out of America’s schools, and help protect and prevent Black children from the internalization of racism.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder & Editor in Chief of the Black Wall St. Times. Frank is also the Co-Executive Producer of the “Dominic Durant Sports Show.” Frank graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL in General Studies, and earned a 2nd degree in Political Science from Oklahoma State University. He is highly involved in community activism, a middle school teacher at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts, a blogger for Education Post, and dedicates most of his time to empowering and uplifting his community. Frank is a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation Honoree and has been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People.