The importance of historical context in today’s discussions of race is undeniable, as modern racism is not isolated from centuries of black prejudice and discrimination. In order to understand current race relations, Andover students need to learn about the history of race. Understanding race history will raise awareness of the differences among people and the power dynamic that is created by those differences. Discussions on race should be incorporated into campus life from the very beginning of Junior year.
From school-wide forums to expert guest speakers, Andover offers an amazing array of extracurricular opportunities for students to discuss and learn about race; however, race discussions can no longer be confined to optional keynotes and smaller club meetings, which Juniors tend to avoid early in their Andover careers. Thus, the conversation needs to be moved to the classroom and into our curriculum — anywhere compulsory. Race is an issue that affects all people, and everyone should therefore be involved in the dialogue.
Noticeably, the current underclassman curriculum devotes little to no time on the history of black oppression in the United States. It is not until History 300 in Upper — or even Senior — year that students begin to learn about the struggles of civil rights activists and the dehumanization of the black race in depth. Even if students have prior knowledge of the American Civil War, rarely do middle schools focus on its racial ramifications after its conclusion. While I understand that black history does not fit perfectly into lesson plans on the Islamic Empire or the Thirty Years’ War, it is important enough for teachers to make room for, considering recent events in Ferguson, MO, and Staten Island, NY.
If the discussion does not take place in the classroom, the school will need to find an alternative avenue to bring the race discussion to Juniors. Our youngest class does not have its choice of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day workshops, and Personal and Community Education (PACE) class is not available until Lower year. I suggest a series of seminars on black history during February when All-School Meeting does not take place. Another solution could be a course about racism and discrimination, similar to the PACE program, that would be required for Juniors.
When the history of racism is understood across campus, we can take the real steps towards equality and towards the end of harmful bias. Ultimately, we have a social responsibility to reject the constant criminalization of non-white men and women. Though breaking away from centuries of discrimination may seem daunting, it is certainly not impossible. The formidability of our task only means that we must start as soon as possible; the sooner we prioritize the incorporation of race history, the greater changes we will see.
_Emily Ndiokho is a Junior from Allen, TX._