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State Senator Jacqueline Collins spoke today at Chicago State University prior to a committee hearing focused on education reform. Her remarks appear in full below.

 

Black history is American history and the racial reckoning confronting and challenging America today is the result of America’s refusal to recognize that fact. To understand what’s happening in this moment in time, one must really understand the central and profound questions of how we got here. As James Baldwin once said, History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.
American history as taught today has been one of half-truths, marred by omissions, downright errors, and specious interpretations, particularly regarding racial issues, such as narratives emphasizing the compassion of enslavers rather than the cruelty endured by the enslaved or such as a Texas history textbook describing the Atlantic slave trade as bringing “workers from Africa” to help with chores in the field. Both narratives minimize the brutality of slavery.

When we teach our children, we should be teaching them in truth. Textbooks are supposed to teach us a common set of facts about who we are as Americans…and what stories are key to our democracy. The Black experience is part of the American experience, the human experience, and our nation’s rich and complicated history and should not be taught in a vacuum.

Pedagogy has always been preeminently political. It is often said that history is written by the victors and their history books--- glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered. Or as an African proverb says “Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” Even when Attorney General William Barr was asked how his involvement in Michael Flynn’s pardon will be viewed in history said, “History is written by the winners, so it largely depends on who is writing the history.

For too long Black history has been a footnote to American history. It is time to close the knowledge gap for all students by integrating Black history into the American history curricula in elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools.

Thus this moment in time is a clarion call for America’s redemption, not only in policy change but 2020 has been the year that a nation’s myopic near-sightedness on race and historical exclusion has been exposed. Today, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus is providing the prescription for a corrected vision.

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