Dr. MARK PORTERIE — African American history education is important, and here’s why

Published 12:34 am Saturday, February 4, 2023

During the month of February, we celebrate the contributions made by African Americans to help build and advance our country.

This year’s theme is “Black Resistance,” with the purpose of highlighting institutions and affiliations that have lobbied, legislated and protested to help African Americans achieve success in countless arenas.

From escaping plantations and working to rise out of poverty, which encompasses the fight for equal housing and education, as well as the struggle to get a majority of people to exercise their voting rights, I strongly feel we should appreciate and give thanks to those who have fought so hard for the rights of African Americans for more than just 28-29 days.

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Human rights are the basic powers and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death. It always amazes me that in years past, and maybe to some extent in the present, African Americans that breath the same way as others, feel pain the same way as others, have able minds the same as others, have intellectual abilities the same as others, were not – and many still are not – even considered human.

It puzzles me that just because of the color of my skin, there are those that look at me as inferior to them. I wonder if people who have race or culture biases would just sit and talk and truly get to know individuals, would that even make a significant difference in my lifetime?

Humanity should have advanced beyond this point by now. Yet, here we still are.

In the past, when we were taught history, and especially African American History, those that were teaching us actually lived the struggle they talked to us about.

They were able to speak to us with emotions that were experienced by them during the time black history was being made. They were able to express their thoughts and phrase their words from their personal and professional experiences.

Today, not only do we no longer have those individuals in the classroom, but critical race theory has become a hot topic in education. CRT is a set of ideas holding that racial bias is inherent in many parts, especially in legal and social institutions.

Basically, there are those that would prefer that certain injustices that have happened not be taught from a human perspective, or from one’s own beliefs, but stick to the actual dictionary definition. There are those that feel that we should not make a certain population of students feel that it is their fault or that they should be ashamed for the actions of their ancestors and I agree.

I think the teachings of past injustices of African Americans should be taught every day to African Americans so that we will never forget what our forefathers had to endure for us to be able to do something as simple as just read a book whenever and wherever we want.

I think that we as a people should never allow our brown and black children to forget that we can name and show photos of their grandparents and great grandparents who could not drink from the same water fountain as whites and sit in the front seats of buses. This knowledge should be imparted into our young people so they can be taught to appreciate the privileges we have today.

It is beyond disheartening when we see students across the country going viral on social media because they are sitting in classes and not paying attention to teachers, or they are disrespecting or ridiculing someone because of his or her age, occupation, or choices in life.

It sickens me to see young African American males continuously walking around in public with their pants sagging below their waists, exposing undergarments and body parts, as if they are not at work, school or church.

I find it very offensive to hear anyone using profanity in an educational setting–especially students. It is not cute and it is not cool at any age for a child to curse in the proper context. I, for one, find it exhausting that many of our young fathers do not take time to responsibly care for and respectfully raise children they have fathered–and the same goes for some of our mothers.

This is why we need to teach African American History to our own people: to pour back into them the pride that we once had, and the notion that one generation must do better than the generation before it.

We must instill the mantra in the minds of tomorrow’s young adults that education is the answer to earning a substantial living for themselves and their families. We as a people, once again, need to be faced with the idea that we did not always have the freedoms that we enjoy today; and we should not make a mistake in thinking that there are some that would not mind taking those freedoms away tomorrow.

It is not the responsibility of other races to care about our young black boys and girls; it is our responsibility. We celebrate Black History Month during the month of February, but teaching pride, respect, hard work and responsibility is what we need to do every day of every year.

As African American people, we should not blame the past for what is happening today if we are not doing anything to maintain and multiply the wins of our forefathers.

The theme for Black History 2024 should be “Black History Remembered: NOW WHAT?!”

We can remember what our greats have done for decades to come.

However, if we do not improve our teaching, parenting and treatment of all humans so that the future of our children looks more promising, all of the beatings, murders, lynchings, insults and other forms of inhumane brutality that have been endured by African Americans since the beginning of this country’s origin will have been for nothing.

Now is the time for us to ensure that we are making better use of the human rights that are afforded to everyone.

Dr. Mark Porterie is superintendent of schools for the Port Arthur Independent School District. He can be reached at mporterie@paisd.org.