By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
They [those with race and gender bias] readily sacrifice their intelligence to their prejudices.
– Zilpha Elaw
Would there even be an America without Black people? That’s what W.E.B. DuBois asked as he detailed the countless Black achievements that formed the heart of the idea and construction of America in his 1924 groundbreaking book titled The Gift of Black Folks.
From the Revolutionary War to the Afghanistan War, America’s military defense depended on African American soldiers and military personnel. Brought here against our will and sold into slavery in 1619, Black labor from the foundation of the American experience provided the substructure for American prosperity, including our current wealth and global economic domination.
Black style in the performing arts, literature, fashion, music, cooking, and other expressions of “how we do the things we do” forms the fabric of the American way of life.
The genius of Black scientists, engineers, and innovators in American society is undisputed. So are the brilliant minds of African Americans who have produced and continue to supply contributions as historical leaders, judges, teachers, scholars, politicians, religious leaders, and public servants.
There also have been cycles of exuberant Black progress followed by White reaction and painful backlash to all of our gains.
Yet, DuBois was right.
Indeed, without Black achievements and vital contributions, America would not be what it is today in terms of its greatness.
Unfortunately, conservative legislators throughout the country want to destroy any ongoing conversation between the collective Black experience and United States History.
Lawmakers like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have publicly opposed education practices that, in his words, “take an unduly critical view of America’s history and its relationship to race.” Recently, the Republican governor’s administration banned an African American Studies Advanced Placement course in Florida. The academic class would allow high school students to earn credits and advanced placement at many colleges across the country. DeSantis maintains that the AP course violates state law and “lacks educational value.”
When the nation is experiencing a demographic shift and whites fear losing their predominant influence, right-wing education policies like these by DeSantis and others are not an accident. The moves are designed to justify an extremist agenda for Republican politicians and to motivate their political base.
As a result, paring back African Americans’ culture, contributions, and experiences and how they shaped U.S. history will promote falsehoods and an inaccurate depiction of America. If the nation’s children are taught a sanitized, whitewashed version of history, the danger is that this false portrayal will provide the foundation for the public policy decisions made by the next generation of lawmakers. Racial and other disparities will also widen as conservative legislators blame blacks and other oppressed people for their poverty and the profound social and economic problems. The government will surely not focus on what it can do to help.
However, there is good news. Today’s youth are clamoring for honest and difficult conversations concerning race, our history, and our future that legislators and even many parents are reluctant to.
An exceptionally high turnout of Generation Z and millennials swung key battle states in favor of the Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections. These youth are likelier to interact with and befriend members of an increasingly diverse society than their parents and grandparents. In addition, according to researcher John Della Volpe, they are more concerned with the treatment of others in society than their elders.
Furthermore, these highly civic-engaged youth are participating in protests, avid readers of politics and social issues, and the most politically active cohort of youth voters in recent history.
John Della Volpe projects that Gen Z and Millennial voters will account for nearly 40 percent of the vote total in the 2024 election.
Due to their upbringing in a multicultural society, youth are increasingly interested in American History that accurately illuminates “where did we start, how did we develop, and who are we.”
More poignantly, this influential and active voting bloc finds biased right-wing education policies that ban books and prevent teachers from freely discussing the true history that shaped us as a nation ignorant and out of touch.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at email@example.com