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Monday, May 27
The Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices

Black Voices: students are being told to ignore history

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An Alabama high school organized a walkout on Feb. 8, after students were told they could not reference events before the 1970s in their Black History Month presentation. Over 200 students participated to represent their frustration with such harmful limitations.  

Hillcrest High School administration said the students “couldn’t talk about slavery and civil rights because one of our administrators felt uncomfortable.” 

IU professor and leader Dr. Jakobi Williams calls that “poor leadership.” As chair of the African American and African Diaspora Studies Department, Williams has studied Civil Rights, Black Power, Social Justice and African American history.  

“I am very proud of those students for standing up and walking out and making this a national issue,” Williams said. “If you don’t raise the issue, then these folks will get away with it.”  

He explained potential steps students could take to prevent this from happening in the future.  

“Walking out is just part of the process,” Williams said. “Now you have to make some demands. The demands have to be institutional changes and policy changes.” 

He went on to emphasize the importance of all marginalized students being able to see their contributions in history books.  

“If we have to learn about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree myth, then you should be learning about the struggle for African American rights, Latino rights, Indigenous rights and so forth and so on,” Williams said. “This is also part of the American story.”  

Unfortunately, this attempt to erase history is not an isolated incident. Stories of legislation working to keep education as white as possible have been appearing in headlines more and more as of late.  

In Jan., the Florida Department of Education rejected an AP African American Studies course being implemented into high school curriculum. At the end of last year, Governor Ron DeSantis of the same state implemented legislation that would allow parents to pull their children out of important lessons and would abolish the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation in K-3 classrooms.  

Indiana may be following suit soon. Bills to ban the teaching of gender identity, gender roles, and sexual orientation in schools have been filed by Republican party lawmakers. This would also involve parental control when it comes to K-12 education.  

“These are not new phenomenons. These are just the latest iterations of the struggle,” Williams said. “Here we are, asking in 2023, ‘Can I learn about my history and my role in society?’ And one person can decide, ‘No, because it makes me feel uncomfortable.’” 

The struggle continues, he said, but children can learn from mistakes of the past, and add that to the innovation of the future to continue fighting against unfair guidelines and legislation. 

Hillcrest High senior Jamiyah Brown, organizer of the walkout, puts their frustration into words, illustrating the urgency and stakes of the situation.  

“Without our history, we are nothing,” Brown said. “Without teaching our youth where we come from, how can we move forward?”  

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