Published 09/21/2020 | Reading Time 2 min 54 sec
Op-Ed By Nehemiah D. Frank, founding publisher and editor in chief
Trump’s cultural war tactics have me ready to catch a case. The President couldn’t resist sticking his supremacist, colonizing nostrils into the educational-sphere at another maskless campaign rally.
Amid a sea of Confederate-red hats, Trump trashed The New York Times’ “1619 Project” as unpatriotic, implying the curriculum is harmful to the civic development of American children. It appears he’s seemingly concerned about the social-conscious growth of White children — after all, having empathy for Black people would be a sign of weakness in his eyes.
Trump is fully cognizant that teaching American history thoroughly, the good and bad, puts the white supremacist infrastructure at risk. And his supporters are aware of this, too. It’s why at the podium in Wisconsin on Thursday, he said, “There is no more powerful force than a parent’s love for their children — and patriotic moms and dads are going to demand that their children are no longer fed hateful lies about this country,” in reference to his disapproval of the “1619 Project,” a literary artifact that educates students about the African American journey.
It’s quite clear that this President doesn’t want White kids catching the white guilt bug, which often comes when confronting their nation’s wickedly savage history.
Trump can’t even conceive thinking about how Black Americans feel when their nation’s leadership actively promotes the burial of Black history in such a public and demeaning way because he is racist.
And his base thanks him for sheltering their Whiteness from having to deal with the guilt of being descendants of the colonizers.
I’m sure if Trump were a history teacher, he would have been the type of instructor who would have replaced the term ‘slave owner’ with ‘planter’, ‘overseer’ with ‘farm manager’, ‘slave’ with ‘indentured servant’ then romanticized the entire history of chattel enslavement; therefore, depriving his students of the truth regarding American history in its totality. Unfortunately, there are teachers in this nation doing this right now and stripping whatever chance White children would have at building any type of empathy for the plight of their Black classmates.
There was nothing positive about the inception of this nation; it was dark, violent, and wicked. And to the 5 million Black human beings living in legal bondage under the American government, slavery was a real-life hell-on-earth situation. There were enslaved Black people who lived and died on plantations without ever stepping so much as a foot of the property.
The thought of looking back and imagining what Black Americans, my ancestors, went through is painful and is equally painful when teaching to a classroom full of innocent Black children that their country didn’t love them as much as their White classmates. Nevertheless, it has to be done. Why? Because they deserve the truth, and they must understand that the seeds of racism planted in America’s earlier years created the outcomes we currently deal with today.
So, now, I ask: How can a man with such little empathy bring the nation together? He can not.
He is too concerned about taking the easy way out because he’s used to cutting corners. To shield America’s White children from the white guilt bug, he declared he’d be taking a propaganda approach and introducing plans for American students called the “1776 Commission,” a complete waste of time, as most primary and secondary students can tell you the year of our nation’s birth.
But what most American students can’t tell you is that the first enslaved black bodies arrived in this nation in 1619. And most teenagers and adults are incapable of telling you that upon the White colonists’ win of the American Revolution meant the continued enslavement of Black people under a new US government. They are also probably unable to tell you that it was 1862 that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and 1865 that the last enslaved person was loosened from their masters’ chains in Texas; and that until then, it was the multitude of Black hands that were the economic engine that lifted this nation to the powerhouse and mighty land it is today.
As a former teacher and assistant school principal, I know the value of having a curriculum that thoroughly tells the story of history. I helped create academic materials that teach America about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
And American students are owed the “1619 Project.”
Nehemiah D. Frank is the founding publisher and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times. He is a graduate of Harold Washington College and Oklahoma State University. His work is featured in TIME Magazine, Education Post, Tulsa People, Citizens Ed, Tulsa World, etc. He is featured in The New York Times, NBC NEWS (print edition), Los Angeles Times, The 74, etc. Frank was also featured in the 2019 documentary “American Heretics,” on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, TEDx Talk, The Great Oklahoma Swindle, etc. Frank is a former school teacher and assistant principal and now spends his time advocating for parents and students in BIPOC communities. He is a founding delegate for the National Parents Union and serves on the Reimagining School Safety and Membership Committees.