Education plays a critical role in ending domestic terrorism and racist violence, testified Zeneta Everhart, the mother of a survivor of last month’s racist massacre at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., to a Congressional panel June 8.
Everhart’s testimony linked two threads that have dominated K-12 education discussions the past weeks and months: gun violence aimed at communities of color, and restrictions on how educators talk about issues of race in the classroom.
She spoke before the House Oversight Committee on the need to act on gun control laws—and of the role education plays in ending domestic terrorism and racist violence.
“We have to change the curriculum in schools across the country so that we may adequately educate our children,” said Everhart, whose son Zaire Goodman was wounded in the attack. Everhart is also the director of diversity and inclusion with the office of New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Democrat.
“Reading about history is crucial to the future of this country. Learning about other cultures, ethnicities, and religions in schools should not be something that is up for debate,” she told the House committee.
Her calls for changes in education, including making African American history a part of broader American history classes, echo similar calls from educators across the country working to practice culturally responsive teaching and working to teach Black history well beyond the scope of Black History Month.
“I’ve read something that says my history is an elective while yours is the core curriculum,” Rodney D. Pierce, an 8th grade social studies teacher at Red Oak Middle School in Nash County Public Schools in Nashville, N.C., previously told Education Week. “That’s not equitable. And one of the things we should strive for in public education is equity.”
Students themselves have called on history teachers to teach the whole truth of the nation’s past, including diving into topics such as the incarceration of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II.
Yet Everhart’s call to educators also comes at a time when a growing number of states have introduced bills or taken other steps to limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism in the classroom. As of mid-May, 17 states had imposed these bans and restrictions either through legislation or other avenues.
“We cannot continue to whitewash education, creating generations of children to believe that one race of people are better than the other,” Everhart told members of Congress. “Our differences should make us curious, not angry.”
Education Week has links for educators on this topic:
- To learn more about how educators can navigate perilous legislative waters while teaching Black history all year long, read the Q&A on “How Do You Teach Black History Without Breaking the Law? Advice From a Teacher.”
- For more on what culturally responsive teaching means and looks like in classrooms, read the explainer on “What Is Culturally Responsive Teaching?”
- To learn more about how history standards are set, read the article on “Who Decides What History We Teach? An Explainer.”
- And to learn more on how to discuss racist violence in classrooms, such as what took place in Buffalo, read the article on “Discussing Racist Violence With Students: 4 Best Practices.”