Black History Is Rated "X"

Roundup: Media's Take

Attorney Heather Bolejack, in the Indianapolis Star (Feb. 27, 2004):

I thought I was a"n----r" when I was in kindergarten because my classmates told me so.

As a biracial child, I thought I was"part slave" in the fourth grade because the teacher and textbooks taught me that all black people were slaves until Harriet Tubman, the abolitionists and Abraham Lincoln"set us free."

In fifth grade, I learned of lynching and the"strange fruit" that hung from the trees of America's South, and as the only child of color in the classroom, I was afraid.

Black history is not"G-rated." Black history is"X-rated" for the crossing out of identities and culture, deletions of a history that begins with ancient kingdoms and black pharaohs, and for gratuitous violence, rape, obscenity and nudity that are part and parcel of American black history.

Should young children learn the unfettered truth of black history in the classroom? Mel Gibson's movie"The Passion of The Christ" depicts the shocking and disturbingly realistic violence of the last 12 hours of Christ's life. Psychologists, religious scholars and parents have cautioned for weeks that children under the age of 12 should not view the movie, albeit educational, due to the psychological effect of viewing the violence and gore of Christ's suffering.

Parents, forewarned and forearmed, therefore have the autonomy to make the final decision regarding how, when and where their children will be exposed to the crucifixion of Christ. We give little scrutiny, however, to how, when and where our children will learn black history, and the frightening stories of human degradation associated with telling that history.

Our children would not be exposed to even moderately violent and offensive material in the classroom without prior permission from parents. When it is time for the"good touch, bad touch" program at school, we are asked to sign a permission form. Yet our children are walking into some schools and being exposed to images that depict racist vitriol and violence against blacks as part of the school's" celebration" of Black History Month while we are unaware and out of the loop.

I hesitated to write this for fear of sounding"ungrateful" or"uppity." After all, shouldn't we just be glad that schools are at least participating in discussions of black history and thankful for the inclusion? Absolutely not.

Our children are growing up in a different world, blessedly one in which everyday use of the word"n----r" is foreign to them. We take it for granted that black children are desensitized to the"N-word" and thus will not feel offended or hurt if they hear the word in the context of education about black history.

It frustrates me that I cannot even write the full word in this article but must use well-placed dashes because it is considered an obscenity. Yet children of tender years are hearing the hateful"N-word" for the first time at school in an educational format. It is a shocking, violent word when heard in the context of its historical use to demean and degrade a race of people.

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