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February 2022: What Weren't You Taught?

Black History Month calls us to continue to develop the education that has been essential to our development as white antiracists. Everywhere we turn this month there are TV specials, books, articles, podcasts, exhibits, and social media posts to help us deepen our understanding of the African-American story.

The term “white racial conditioning” comes up frequently in our gatherings. For most of us, this refers in part to the way we were educated. Once we begin moving toward antiracism its typical for many of us to realize, if we didn’t know it before, that we weren’t brought up with a well-rounded and useful history of our country. What we ended up learning in school could be considered deeply insufficient at best and more like propaganda at worst.

As one member of CWC recently reflected:

"I didn’t know much about Black history as a kid and I don’t remember a lot of what I was taught about our 'founding fathers' in school but if I fish around in my pocket right now I can find currency with three presidents who enslaved people while in office. I know that never came up in history class!"

So, this February, as we celebrate Black History and also the birthday of one of the founding fathers, let’s use this poem by author and poet Clint Smith to reflect on the impact of what we were taught and what we weren’t taught through our experience with education.

Here are a few questions we’ll use to help jumpstart the conversation:

  1. How did what you were taught about the founding fathers and the founding of the U.S. reinforce the ideas that white people were intellectually, morally, and physically superior to BIPOC?

  2. How does Clint Smith’s poem challenge what you learned about the founding fathers? What feelings came up for you as you listened to the poem?

  3. How has your relationship to U.S. history changed on your journey towards antiracism?

  4. How can recognizing the limitations of your own education help you connect with other white people who may be at the beginning of their antiracism journey?

As we always say, if this prompt doesn’t inspire you, please come to a gathering and bring whatever is on your mind.

We’re excited to see you this month; there is so much work to be done but we are in this together, learning and growing so that we can be helpful to the next white people who come looking for solid white antiracist community.

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit in with the core belief." -- Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks


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