Tea Time with Tagwa: Black history should not be limited to slavery

Illustration by Karly Andersen

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Tea timers, happy Black History Month. This month, we highlight and celebrate the extensive success of the Black community through the nation and worldwide, spanning for centuries.

However, our desire to learn and educate ourselves should not stop in March. We owe it to the Black community to teach ourselves what was never taught to us.

Looking back to my early education years, I find myself struggling to grasp a time where I was learning Black history that was positive. I remember learning about slavery; it’s almost like I can still feel the stares of my white classmates burning a hole through the back of my head. 

I remember my teachers discussing the reality of white folks selling and owning Black people throughout my education. Yet, we never truly get to the brutality of the times. We learn about slavery for a week or so through a delightful song and then it’s on to the next white man who helped shape this nation.

When will this country realize that the people who shaped it the most — the people who shaped it through all of their adversity — were Black? 

We learn about one or two slaves who managed to fight against the power that saw them as nothing more than mere property; as three-fifths of a person. Yet, history labeled them as rebels, as rioters — as people who were violent against their captures. 

Nat Turner’s rebellion is often presented as a bloodbath that could have been avoided. Avoided through what, exactly? Conversation? It’s naive to assume that Turner would’ve been granted freedom simply by asking, like a good little slave. If conversation was enough to free slaves, slavery would never have existed.

Don’t get me wrong, teaching students about slavery is vital. But in an effort to ensure such a disgusting injustice does not happen again, we cannot sugarcoat such topics. I’m not saying we need to show whipping videos to fourth graders, however, as students grow through the education system, their understanding of how gravely slavery infringed on the rights of human beings must also grow.

Slavery is not our exclusive history. The Black community has done endless, upstanding work to help better this nation, help better this world. Still, our education system spends more time teaching its students about how in 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, instead of the magic of the Children’s Crusade in 1963.

Furthermore, the civil rights movement was not the only time the Black community rose up against the tyranny that is white supremacy. We’ve seen the Black Power movement, the Pan-Africanism movement and even more presently, the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black leaders are limited to a small group of change. History teaches us that Martin Luther King Jr. was a good Black person; he is what we should all aspire to be. Then they slander Malcolm X as the bad Black person who chose violence.

What they don’t tell us is that Malcolm X simply advocated for self-defense against a community — a government — that uses and abuses his people. We teach children to stand up for themselves; to never allow anyone to bully them. Yet when Malcolm X preached a similar message, we tell students it is not okay.

Well, it’s time to stop limiting students on Black history. I was so fatigued of taking American and European history growing up. I wanted to learn about the formation of the Black Panthers. I wanted to learn about the Pan-African movement. I wanted to learn about the Harlem Renaissance. 

I wanted to see all of the tragic beauties of being Black in America. 

Black history does not stop at slavery. Black history does not stop at the civil rights movement. Black history does not stop in February. And that’s the tea.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply