What If You’re A White Teacher Teaching Black History? [Some Examples]

Jose Vilson Jose

In my last post, I put down some thoughts on Black History Month, something I’ve written about at least once for the last four years. Every so often, I get a question that I ought to put in an FAQ section. For instance:

“What if you’re a white teacher teaching about Black history?”

I often reply, “Go right ahead, as long as you do it right.”

Of course, you want to know what I mean by “right.” Besides the aforementioned article, I’d like to point you in the direction of some of the comments made in that article, too. For instance, here’s my respected colleague Mike Kaechele:

As a social studies teacher I really don’t like all of the special months and days. I try to teach the various viewpoints of history holistically. I will not be singling out blacks in February, just like we didn’t talk about terrorism on 9/11. We did spend three weeks on 9/11 and terrorism when it fit where we were as a class. We have talked about African Americans in the context of all of the wars and foreign policy that we have discussed. I feel comfortable not focusing on Black history in February because we do integrate it all year in context and we will spends weeks on the Civil Rights Movement starting in March.

I do appreciate the need to still have these months because too many people and teachers still neglect them. But for me in my classroom, I choose to ignore the “calendar schedule” knowing that I will give the topics due diligence when it fits our scope and sequence.

We have something here. Here’s another one from my colleague Laura Sexton:

Having our school on a college campus means that I get to walk my Spanish 2 class over for the college’s Celebrando America Latina series featuring afrolatinos in Peru, Mexico, and Cuba this month, but we’re not going to even start the unit about afrolatino experiences in different countries (which you helped me out with a few years ago wiki style, and for which I owe you part of my National Board certification) until the end of the month, so it’ll go well into March too. So over 1/3 of the course is approaching Woodson’s goal, right?

Right. For now, I don’t want anyone thinking Black / Latino / LGBT / Asian / Women’s / Native American / Any Non-Dominant Group History Month should go away, but eventually, whether we have mainstream views on America or not, we do have to do more than acknowledge these groups’ roles in American history, and until we do that, we’ll continue to need them.

It starts with those of us in the classroom, but we can’t do it alone.

Jose, who needs non-educators to jump into the fray too …