Remember that Martin Luther King, Jr. episode of ABC’s hit comedy Black-ish last year? While the Johnson family prepared for their annual Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend ski trip, Andre learns that his son Junior knows very little about Dr. King. After wondering how this could have possibly happened, Andre soon concludes, “Oh my God, we’re the bad Black people” for not teaching his son more about Black history.
For the rest of the episode, Andre attempts to point out racial slights and discrimination, but it doesn’t quite go as planned. When he’s pulled over by a white cop, Andre prepares his son for a confrontation, but the officer turns out to be polite; and when a trip to a store called “Whitey’s” doesn’t result in the group being racially profiled, Junior concludes that racism just isn’t as big of a deal as it was in the past.
Andre’s antics quickly get even more over-the-top when he stages a “sit in” in the hotel lobby when his family doesn’t get a pair of adjoining rooms. Though Andre’s “lessons” on race and racism continue to backfire—and quite hilariously—he kind of has a point.
In our quest to live our lives and give our children every advantage possible, are we forgetting to teach them about the past?
American history is messy. And when it comes to the history of Black folks in America, things can get down right depressing. But does that mean we should skip over it and just focus on how things are today?
Another thing that happened: A group of parents in Conway, Arkansas made national news after they decided to pull their second graders from school instead of allowing them to learn about slavery. As one mother of a biracial daughter put it, “I don’t want my child to sit there and question well why do I have a Black father and a white mother? She might ask, “Were my Black father’s family slaves and could my white mother’s family possibly owned slaves?”
Teaching our children about African American history is a personal choice, but it’s a duty we should take up willingly. Instead of waiting on schools to relay the basics about Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and President Obama, we should be proactive about teaching our children about the triumphs and challenges of our people, in America and across the African diaspora.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to pull out the history books or give your kids a boring lesson. Make learning fun by reading a history-based picture books–like Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman or A President From Hawaii by Dr. Terry Carolan & Joanna Carolan—as a bedtime story, or have a family movie marathon full of kid-approved films about history. Then hit the street and get some culture at a museum or performance.
When it comes to teaching children about our history the possibilities are endless. The only thing you have to do, though? Get started.
How do you teach your children about Black history?