Systemic Racism In Schools Perpetuates Systemic Racism Everywhere

Systemic Racism In Our Schools Perpetuates Systemic Racism Everywhere Else

June 18, 2020 Updated June 20, 2020

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When I was 12, I found a box of old, dusty books in the family garage. A stack of westerns, some V.C. Andrews, and the thickest book I’d ever seen aside from the Bible: Roots. The cover did not have a synopsis. A quick flip of the pages told me it was a story about Black people. I couldn’t imagine where it had come from (my former-hippie mom?) and didn’t want to ask in case anyone might object to my reading it. My father and my grandparents had made it clear how I was supposed to feel about Black people.

So I read that massive book without mentioning it to anyone, and in doing so inadvertently indoctrinated myself into understanding that the messages I was receiving from my family and from my school were, at best, not the full story, and, at worst, outright lies. At 12, I was able to make the thin, immature connection between the stories I read in Roots and the microaggressions and blatant racism against Black people I witnessed daily — how the whole world seemed so ready to dehumanize Black people and put barriers in their way no matter what they tried to accomplish. Roots was my introduction to what I would later learn was called systemic racism.

What if I hadn’t stumbled upon Roots in a box of books in my garage? Where would I be now in terms of what I know, how I behave, and what kinds of social activism I engage in?

I know for sure that I wouldn’t have learned the true history of systemic racism in my public school classroom.