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University of Missouri promoting Black history education

Missouri

Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 7/30/2018, 10:36 a.m.
While the news is filled with stories of racists harassing Black people...

While the news is filled with stories of racists harassing Black people in their businesses, in their homes and as consumers, there are entities promoting equality, diversity and the education of Black history. Consider the story OW ran last week of how a major police department in Pennsylvania is sending its new hires to the African American Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Corporations are emphasizing diversity, launching sensitivity training programs in their work forces and firing staffers that practice discrimination and racial profiling. Now comes news from the University of Missouri (remember that Ferguson and St. Louis in Missouri have been the sites of major race issues) that the educational institution has launched a new center to help improve Black history education. According to the Associated Press, the Carter Center’s mission is to conduct research on Black history education, and enhance kindergarten through 12rh grade instruction and design. The program comes after protests in 2015 by students protesting racism at the university. Missouri is one of many states that does not offer Black history in its standard curriculum. Some high schools offer it as an elective. “Teachers are well-meaning and they want to do well, but they're under-resourced,” said LaGarrett King, the center's founding director and an associate professor of social studies education. “What we are missing is a complete historical narrative about Black people and their contributions to democracy and how institutionalized racism has persisted.” Black history is often reduced to slavery, Reconstruction and civil rights, which can lead to blind spots in students’ understanding, King said. “Black history is often closely connected to oppression. The first time a child reads about a Black historical character through the notions of enslavement, it erases a complex understanding about who is Black. “A better understanding of all Americans’ history will help create a more equitable society, said the center associate director and an assistant professor of social studies education. “We can’t move the conversation on race forward if we misunderstand how freedom was defined by the government at a particular historical moment.” In the fall of 2015, Concerned Student 1950 demanded university officials acknowledge the university’s historic discrimination against Black students and work to correct such mistakes. The group sought more Black faculty and increased investment in minority student retention The university has responded by implementing administrative changes, expanding scholarships for low-income students and investing in public relations.