February is Black History Month in America, a fact that in and of itself speaks to a central problem with the way Black achievement is celebrated and taught in this country. Critics have long decried the impulse to compartmentalize history this way, arguing that it diminishes the enormous contributions Black people have made to all sectors of American life.
Historians have long lobbied for a much deeper and more meaningful integration into public school education, and it’s a cause that’s been taken up by Black leaders from various industries. NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, for instance, who has long been a champion of education, recently spoke about the importance of re-framing the discussion of Black history.
During a virtual conference this week, he spoke about his own experience learning about Black history in school and the insufficient nature of how it was taught to him and so many others.
“A couple of paragraphs, that was it.” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (@kaj33) discusses how Black history gets ignored and the importance of teaching, learning and celebrating the contributions of Black Americans. #BlackHistoryMonth Virtual Teach-in – 12pm/et on @NBA pic.twitter.com/OxcBhlk5K3
— NBA (@NBA) February 12, 2021
“The history books I had when I was in grade school and high school referred to Black people with regard to the issues of slavery and civil rights, and that was it, and that was a couple of paragraphs,” he said. “Our history in this country is so much more involved. It’s intricate. All of our achievements in the arts and sciences are ignored, so we really have a lot of work to do to let our fellow citizens know that we’ve contributed so much to what makes America great.”
Thankfully, we have advocates like Abdul-Jabbar, who consistently uses his voice and his platform to advocate for change. Keeping this conversation going will only aid the process of bringing real change and progress to an educational model that has been badly in need of adjustment for generations.