Dr Naomi Reed has a novel explanation for the racism that taints America’s culture. She blames the state of Texas’s educational system, and its power to drive editorial decisions in textbooks, for fostering stereotypes of the violent black male:
Perusing a passage on the Civil War in a high school student’s history textbook in Texas might leave you wondering if black Americans were ever enslaved and if there really is any truth to anti-black racism at all.
A natural question is, are these textbooks having an impact in framing issues of race on the reader?
As an ethnographic researcher of race and education in Texas for the last 10 years, I have come to recognize that the US history textbook materials available to high school students can end up perpetuating damaging images of blackness.
Textbook language may not exactly pull the trigger of a police officer’s gun, but it could very well drive the thinking involved in the act of shooting an unarmed black male.
This becomes evident during depositions on police brutality by law enforcement officials. Many of these police officers describe their fear of the black male victims. They often said they anticipated violence and presented black aggression as their justification for firing. The expressed beliefs of these officers about black males sound very similar to the language authored by writers and publishers of many Texas textbooks.
While I don’t dispute that the stereotypes exist, most notably in the minds of some cops, there are other possible explanations.
Another possible culprit would be the supplementary curricula that are published with textbooks and distributed to teachers. Those affect how the teach presents the materials in the textbook (which I’m not sure that many students even read beyond looking for answers to required questions). One also can’t underestimate the impact of the school yard, and the attitudes that kids pick up from their friends and social circles.
That said, I haven’t made an extensive study of textbooks, and Dr Reed has. I also haven’t read a k-12 history recently, so it would be hard for me to say what attitudes they foster.
What do you think? Have you read your kid’s history textbook?
image by brewbooks