Monday, January 24, 2022

Tanji Reed Marshall: Commemorating 100 Years Since the Tulsa Massacre

Photo from the 1921 Tulsa Massacre

*One hundred years ago this week, a White mob massacred Black residents in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma, ending generations of Black wealth-building that has yet to recover.

But if lawmakers in several states and a growing chorus of conservative critics of “critical race theory” have their way, students might learn the facts about the Tulsa Massacre, but not the direct connection between the demise of Black Wall Street and current racial wealth gap.

The same would happen when it came time to learn about Indian Removal: Students would learn the facts, but without fully understanding the relationship between an attempt at ethnic genocide and the plight of Indigenous Americans today.

In a blog post to commemorate this grim anniversary, I (Tanji Reed Marshall) explore the ways in which legislating ignorance is both not something new and a terrible thing for our students.

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Tulsa 1921 An American TragedyjpgThe irony of banning critical race theory is that legislating ignorance has always been part of Black educational life in the United States. Black and Brown people have always had to steal their education. In his book, Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching, Jarvis R. Givens shares, “the enslaved had to gain their education by ‘snatching’ learning in forbidden fields,” because this country understood education made a person unfit for subjugation. When we fail to fully teach these historical realities, we risk repeating them with far-reaching effect. Not only are Black, Native, and Latino children once again having to “snatch learning,” all children will be forced into fields of ignorance – ostensibly to protect the sensibilities of those who might find the truth discomforting.

Shutting off access to current events as means of ensuring students will only see America through rose-colored glasses is not only historically inaccurate, but also irresponsible and will jeopardize students’ ability to function in a global society and compete with students whose states allow and expect their students to walk away from 13 years of formal schooling with broad, deep knowledge about who we are as a country.

Together, we can change the policies, practices, and beliefs to shift the appropriate power structures needed to truly realize equity and justice.

Our nation will never move forward with legislators using their power to emotionally protect one group of students while they intellectually disenfranchise them all.

Teaching the Truth,

Tanji Reed Marshall1
Tanji Reed Marshall

Director of P-12 Practice
The Education Trust



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