Social Studies Letter to the Editor

Teach Black Fear in U.S. History, Analyze White Fear More

April 25, 2023 1 min read
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To the Editor:

“Black fear” is indeed a necessary component of U.S. history lessons. The fear that white people have of Black people, which Brittany L. Jones mentions in the essay “We Don’t Teach Enough About Black Fear in U.S. History” (Feb. 8, 2023), carries more consequences and deserves further classroom analysis than the current surface-level history lessons in many schools.

White fear first caught my attention when I watched Amazon’s “Them” (2021), a television show that centers Black and white relations and experiences when a Black family moves into an all-white neighborhood in 1953 during the Great Migration. Redlining by white real estate professionals, banks, and government entities is one of the many forms of retaliation that the Black family experiences because of the white fear about their presence in the neighborhood. Dramas like this are necessary because they reframe the narrative to not only focus on “Black trauma” but also emphasize the consequences of “white fear.”

White fear, as Jones mentioned, fueled white supremacist systems, including “harsher fugitive-slave laws and legislation that severely restricted the rights of free Black Americans.” This fear still restricts the social and financial progress of not only Black people but also Indigenous people and Nations, Asian people, Latino/a/e/x people, and more. It spreads like an aggressive cancer to those who cannot prove whiteness.

Thus, it is identifying, analyzing, and dismantling the source of white supremacy—white fear—that deserves more focus in U.S. history classes to help students reach the core of who did what to whom and why so that the United States can become a harmonious union.

k. kennedy Whiters
Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Architect
(un)Redact the Facts, an initiative of wrkSHäp kiloWatt, LLC
New York, N.Y.

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A version of this article appeared in the April 26, 2023 edition of Education Week as Teach Black Fear in U.S. History, Analyze White Fear More


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