Guest view: Schools must change to address racial disparity

I cannot recall when I was a child ever being shown in the classroom learning materials which depicted a black lawyer, teacher, scientist, business professional, or pilot.

Both black and white students were taught that generals of the Confederate army were great Americans, ignoring the fact that they led the treasonous movement against the United States and were fighting to maintain the cruel and inhumane enslavement of black people.

In this way and others, the educational system of America systemically promotes racism and exclusion, which goes against everything this country is supposed to stand for.

Schools teach that "all men are born equal" but neglect to show white students the irony of such statements by failing to teach American history correctly, especially concerning subjects relating to slavery. This deficit had to be corrected by the Illinois General Assembly, which enacted a law to mandate the slave trade and socio-economic struggle experienced by black people in the United States be included in the public-school curriculum. Exposure to African American contributions to U.S. history must also be included.

Plenty would not exist were it not for black pioneers, such as the automatic clothes dryer, automatic elevator doors, cardiac pacemaker, golf tee, ironing board, potato chips, touch tone telephone, traffic light, refrigerated trucks and more. The list of inventions by African Americans is lengthy, yet these things are not included in the instruction provided to our youth.

To compound the problem, school boards and administrators have been slow to train teachers in American history and have neglected to expose white students to African American teachers by failing to hire educators who look different and have a differing background.

Schools are not preparing students for the new reality as the demographics of America continue to change. Within 35 years, 57% of the population of the United States will be people of color.

People of color face barriers to success every single day, from an early age, that whites never even have to think -- let alone worry -- about.

If white supremacy, white privilege, inequality, and injustice were to end, we will need new, enlightened leaders in the field of education who are committed to the indoctrination of our youth to the realities of all people living in our nation.

In a world where white students who are asked when they realized that they were white cannot answer the question, yet black students can, there is something very wrong.

When students do not know that two-thirds of the world's population are people of color, there is something fundamentally amiss.

Schools and administrators must change if our country is to become more just and equal.

A child is not born racist, but it starts early.

Students learn to be racist in classrooms by educators who are not equipped to teach all students regardless of color and background, where distortions, untruths, and the cruelty of exclusion exist. This is where little white boys and girls learn to falsely believe they are superior based on nothing more than the color of their skin.

• The Rev. Clyde H. Brooks, of Arlington Heights, is chairman of the Illinois Commission on Diversity and Human Relations.

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