The politics of seeing tangible results of protest
David L. Horne, PH.D. | 9/10/2020, midnight
As animated, sometimes violent protest demonstrations continue in several American cities over long-simmering and largely unaddressed concerns over racial, ethnic, gender and economic inequalities in American society, many citizens have wondered what comes next? Will there be any substantive change this time, or will another holding pattern settle in and prevail, as usual?
Politically, it is always easier, and is the path most often taken, to simply let emotions ebb and marching feet tire themselves out.
Unless one pays attention this time, however, one can easily miss some examples of real, permanent change at least in some states. Take California, for example. Pushed by public sentiment and a sense that the time has come to show the needle moving forward, Governor Newsom recently signed legislation to require that an ethnic studies course become a graduation requirement at the 23-campus California State University, the largest public college/university system in the country.
Big deal, some people will scoff, even when that information is bolstered by the recent news that the state of California, and its largest public school system—L.A. Unified—have both also mandated an ethnic studies course requirement for graduation from high school.
So what? Students will now learn a little more about African-Americans, Latinx, Native Americans and Asians in California—how the experiences of these groups have enriched both California and the United States in general.
How will that help with police reform, unsuppressing state and national voting rights, saving the planet, restoring respect for each other, saving American democracy, etc.? Well, public education is the key toward establishing, preserving and ingraining the economic-social fabric of countries. What one knows about one’s place in the societies in which we live, is a crucial aspect of one’s sense of worth and significance. Constantly reproducing types of colonial—master race education is also how racism and ethnocentrism became ensconced in American society and other areas of the planet.
This mass strategy is why all successful colonizers in history, no matter the language or religion espoused, have always seized relatively permanent control of public education in the conquered areas. Successful conquest, bolstered by education that teaches the conquered that they are bound to be colonized or enslaved, has worked very well in world history, including the U.S.A.
Look at the difference it made in American education, for example, to find out that African-Americans had actually fought for the Union cause in military units (over 160,000 died), and were not just people who were freed from bondage by others’ efforts. Even more surprising was the historical truth that during the War of Independence (Revolutionary War) which founded this country, African-American soldiers (not just a single individual—Crispus Attucks, Salem Poor or Peter Salem) actively participated in taking the fight to the British (the Black Battalion of the First Rhode Island Regiment, the Virginia State Navy, etc.). Black Americans had not all been slaves! They were Revolutionary War heroes, etc.
That kind of inclusion breeds Americanism and a sense of pride. African-Americans are not outsiders waiting to be saved, and they are worthy of being studied and re-examined in American history.
That inclusion is a tangible benefit of the still-current social protests, and we continue to look for even more. The recent California decisions include more content written by Black folks about Black participation in the building and maintenance of the U.S.A. That’s even better.
Keep bending the arc towards social justice!
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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