Unlearning the False Narratives of White Supremacy and Escaping the Illusions of Inferiority! Let’s Help Our Young People Unlearn What White Supremacy Taught Them
POSTED FEB. 7, 2020 IN BETTER CONVERSATION |Courtesy of Education Post
Tanesha Peeples is the Deputy Director of Outreach for Education Post. Her mission is to use her education, passion and experience to empower marginalized populations. Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, she is a Chicago Public Schools alumna and proud Englewoodian. Check out her blogging about “Hope and Outrage.” FULL PROFILE →
Unlearning the False Narratives of White Supremacy
“Tanesha Peeples does an exceptional job in this piece outlining the enigmatic issues that plague us as a people and confound our youth. As long as we continue to judge and assess our worth based on the “Eurocentric Idea of What Is,” we will continue to struggle with an inferiority complex that breeds self-hatred.
One mistake that we consistently make as a race is that we expect those who have consistently proven to be diametrically opposed to our empowerment to teach and empower our progeny. We have bought into the soft-sell of inclusion and acceptance while completely ignoring the lack of access to resources. As Tanesha so lucidly states, there is no achievement gap, only a gap in access to opportunities. When given the same opportunities, we have proven to be more than up to the task.
Make no mistake about it, White people are keenly cognizant of what will happen if Blacks get equal footing. What we must comprehend is the fact that we will never gain equal footing if we continue to wait on the current racial caste system to provide it. We must, as Tanesha suggests, unlearn what White supremacy has taught us, and our primary focus must be our youth.
My fear is that generation X and the Baby Boomers have consumed far too much of the Kool-Aid and the detoxification process will take years and maybe even decades. However, the millennials and Gen Z can literally get a fresh start, but we will need to subsidize public school curriculums with our history to address the current identity crisis.
I have written about this in The Miseducation of Black Youth in America and Born in Captivity: Psychopathology as a Legacy of Slavery. We suffer from an identity crisis and we are searching for ourselves. Unfortunately, we are searching for ourselves within a Eurocentric paradigm of what is. This Eurocentric paradigm defines what is beautiful, what is classy, what is professional, what is ultimately acceptable. This paradigm does not make room for our unique expression of our humanity and creativity; therefore, we will never thrive while acquiescing to the suggestion offered by this system. We must define who we are and what we are capable of. We must express values, interests, and principles that serve us.
At The Odyssey Project, we are working to be a force in the lives of Black youth, exposing them to their true selves — empowering them to be the best versions of themselves without seeking the approbation and approval of anyone outside of themselves — especially the White establishment.
We are working to properly and effectively socialize young Black males to be highly functional and prosocial within the Black collective. This must be the aim of Blacks in the U.S. on a grand scale. We cannot afford to continue down the path we are currently traveling. We must start today helping our youth unlearn what white supremacy has taught them and to escape the illusion of inferiority that has resulted from this erroneous teaching.” ~ Rick Wallace, Ph.D. Psy.D., Executive Director of The Odyssey Project
The other day I was recording an episode of my podcast with 11th graders at a school on the far south-side of Chicago. During our conversation about their experiences as Black students in a historically racist public school system and the inequitable distribution of resources, one of the young ladies began her response to a question with, “Well, because they [White people on the north-side] are more high-class …”
Everything she said after “high-class” sounded like, “Womp, womp, womp, womp … womp” because I was having my own conversation in my head:
Me: Did she really just say that???
Self: Girl, yes she did!
Me: Wow! Okay, just making sure I’m not trippin’.
This mentality—this thinking right here is the acid that has persistently eroded Black Americans’ sense of identity and value, individually and collectively.
The notion that we’re “less than” has been reinforced by White privilege, mainstream media that loves to perpetuate colorism, oppressive institutions and prejudiced ideological constructs dating back to the day we stepped foot on this land as enslaved Africans.
So after that moment of clarity, I took a break from recording to address the comment. The young lady seemed embarrassed and apologized profusely, believing she’d said something wrong. I assured her that there was nothing to be sorry for, affirmed her identity and presence as an intelligent, strong, worthy, young Black woman and topped it off with, “It’s okay—we all have some unlearning to do. But now you know.”
THE ILLUSION OF INFERIORITY HAS BEEN A CURSE IN OUR COMMUNITIES FOR GENERATIONS
While Black History Month is the perfect time to begin some of this unlearning, I don’t expect any of us to go hard for 29 days (we’re in a leap year) and emerge on March 1st as brand new Black people. Realistically, the illusion of inferiority has been a curse in our communities for generations, so to gradually shift from that brainwashing to self-actualization will take time.
But the journey has to begin somewhere and I think the best place to start is with chipping away at the faith we have in our public school system.
Even though I fantasize about every Black parent snatching their child out of public schools to bankrupt the system, I know throwing the whole thing away will have a negative effect on us, too (similar to the aftermath of Brown v. Board when Black educators lost their jobs and our communities were further destabilized). But if you’re one of those people who think the public school system is doing everything it can for Black kids, let me let you know right now that it’s not. In fact, it was never designed to truly educate Black kids. If you need receipts, here you go:
- First, why would a country that once persecuted our ancestors for attempting to learn how to read and then later enact laws that put restrictions on the extent to which we could learn have a change of heart? It wouldn’t—a leopard doesn’t change its spots.
- Second, if we don’t trust the criminal “justice” system, why would we trust a public school system built by the same White men whose main interests are protecting their power and privilege? The public school system grooms Black people at an early age to enter into the criminal “justice” system by reprimanding, suspending and expelling them from school at disproportionate rates—impressing upon these young minds that they’re delinquents. And they’ve strategically built the school-to-prison pipeline to not only deter Black people from getting an education, but to continue the industry of profiting off of chattel slavery through mass incarceration. It’s all connected.
- Third, the system has mostly taught our Black kids that their history in the U.S. begins with slavery, ends with Dr. Martin Luther King having a dream and depicts Malcolm X and the Black Panthers as unruly negroes. The deliberate erasure of our contributions, movements and cultural evolution from the traditional system purposely perpetuates inferiority.
And because of the aforementioned, we also have to detach ourselves from the definitions of “perfection” and “achievement” set by White supremacy culture with the ultimate goal of keeping us “in our place.” That’s how we’ve gotten caught up in this whole “achievement gap” nonsense that paints an utterly ridiculous picture of Black kids not being able to achieve at the same level as White kids.
Is there an “achievement” gap? Nah. Is there an opportunity gap? Hell yeah!
These are just a few examples of where we can start. But, we’d be irresponsible not to coalesce this unlearning with self-taught knowledge for the purposes of affirming cultural identity and communal empowerment.
WE NEED TO KNOW WHO AND WHERE WE CAME FROM—GREATNESS, STRUGGLE AND GLORIOUS OVERCOMING—TO DEVELOP A CLEAR VISION OF WHERE WE’RE GOING AND HOW TO GET THERE.
The way I see it is, Sankofa is our foundation and the principles of Kwanzaa are our building blocks. We need to know who and where we came from—greatness, struggle and glorious overcoming—to develop a clear vision of where we’re going and how to get there.
This means creating our own supplemental educational systems that disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and help our kids to realize their full potential. We have to become scholars of our own history, tell those stories and set our own standards for success and excellence. And we have to assume the power this country is so afraid of us having.
I think I’m making this all sound easy, but it won’t be. We have over 400 years of unlearning and learning to do. In fact, the process of unhinging ourselves from believing in the education system alone seems cumbersome.
THE PERCEIVED “RISK” OF UNLEARNING IS NOT ONLY NECESSARY, IT’S ABSOLUTELY WORTH THE REWARD OF DISCOVERING OURSELVES.
Buy y’all, the perceived “risk” of unlearning is not only necessary, it’s absolutely worth the reward of discovering ourselves. If we just take it one step at a time, we can get there. Start right now during Black History Month and take every opportunity to instill in a young person that they’re worthy, valuable, destined for greatness and most definitely high-class.
SHARE THIS HOPE + OUTRAGE I want to start a movement where people of color feel compelled and empowered to advocate for better education, so every week I’m sharing some HOPE and OUTRAGE right here. But I’m not writing this to be famous, I’m doing this because our youth need all of us in this fight.
SO SHARE IT OUT RIGHT NOW →