In a state with large Mormon representation and where the history of the religion is taught in its schools, Black history month seems to be a topic not many deem mandatory to be taught to their children.
After a year of protests and demand for further change, a Utah school failed at what the BLM movement has been rightfully demanding for the last few years—adequate education on Black history and the true history of this country.
Last week, Maria Montessori Academy Director Micah Hirokawa issued a statement on Facebook about a letter parents had received that allowed parents to opt their children out of Black History month curriculum. The director informed parents to exercise their civil rights if they chose to. This letter was sent out after a few families had asked for their children not to participate in this curriculum.
Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, this country was built by Black people in slavery. Black people who had no voice and no choice to what their lives consisted of. They worked their lives away in gruesome circumstances building this country. Their history is this country’s history.
Black people have built some of the most iconic architecture in the country, including government buildings and universities, but their contribution goes beyond that. Their culture has gifted us with some of the best artists, musicians and scholars.
After years of demand for better treatment of the Black community, many parents are still reluctant to have their children taught about Black history in this country. This community’s history is crucial to understanding the real history of this country. We cannot pick and choose what parts of this country’s history we educate our children on.
For parents to want to opt their children out of learning about Black history is a disservice to their children. We cannot preach about unity in religion or anywhere else, while not providing our future generations with the truth that many of us were robbed of growing up. We all know this country’s education system hasn’t always been truthful with us. We’ve all had times when we’ve had to educate ourselves on subjects our schools chose not to.
While separation of church and state should exist even in a state with a large religious background, the history of Mormonism is still discussed in Utah schools. If the history behind a religion can still be discussed, then the history of an important community in the country should be too.
At the end of the day, racism is taught, and a parent’s decision to not let their children learn about Black history only teaches them that it’s okay to not acknowledge it. Our country cannot progress if we do not do better for our children. We are only adding onto the problem when we give parents a choice to opt their children out of such a crucial part of history.
After being under substantial criticism, this Utah school reversed its decision, rightfully so. However, it leads me to ask, was this a decision made because of the criticism or because of the realization that this is further hurting our country?
Time after time, we see public figures come out with tiresome statements after being exposed for racist acts. After a while, it begins to feel like all of these apologies sing the same song: the song of regret solely for being exposed. These songs plead for forgiveness and for mercy from colleagues, jobs and the public.
Some may argue that it may be a bit extreme to strip someone of their scholarships or of their employment when these racist acts come to light. A “teachable moment,” is what many like to call these instances. And these teachable moments may be doing nothing more than teaching others that it’s easy to get away with being racist. It teaches others that it’s okay to disregard the feelings of people of color and go on with their racist actions and prejudices.
As an exhausted person of color, I’m done with teachable moments. It’s 2021, and I’m done with letting people get a simple slap on the wrist for their racist acts that aid the issues people of color face in this country.
I’m not saying that I’m not glad this school reversed its decision, but I do have to question the reasoning behind it, and I think we all do. I believe it is up to us to hold institutions and people accountable for their actions that only further hurt our country. The Black community has done a lot for our country, and it is up to us to do right by them as well.
Evelyn Mejia is a freshman broadcast journalism major. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org