As they so often do, our discussion in class this week reminded me of one of the most influential teacher’s that I’ve had the privilege of learning from at Muhlenberg, Dr. Charles Anderson. Our discussion of how racism directly effects the testing ability of black youth made me feel as if I was right back in introduction to African American Studies and I had to re-visit one particular article that I felt was so relevant to what we are discussing. The article is by Molefi Asante, who is one of the most respected African American studies scholars in the world. He is currently a professor at Temple, where he started the first PhD program for African American studies. He has written countless works, but the articles I read, or should say re-read are titled “Locating a Text: Implications of Afrocentric Theory”, “Afrocentricity”, and “Where is the White Professor Located?”. In all of these articles, among other things, he points out the many flaws in the American education system. More specifically Asante convincingly argues that our education system is based on racist Eurocentric viewpoints that keep white people at the center of every academic subject and only teach these subjects from a Eurocentric perspective. Asante further asserts that because of this narrow and exclusionary education system, young African American students feel alienated, dislocated, unimportant, and above all, marginalized in the scope of academic study. Getting more specific, Asante discusses how non-white groups are portrayed in academic study, specifically the study of history, as the groups that are acted upon rather than groups with agency. He argues that the agency denied to minority groups in the study of history and academia in general further alienates African Americans and other minority groups because it promotes a feeling of helplessness in their lives.
More importantly, however, is that Asante discusses at great length the absence of not only the Afrocentric perspective from America’s school curriculum, but also the gross omissions of vital areas of African American history. These omissions, as Asante points out, are mostly associated with the more brutal details of slavery and the many glossed over contributions of African Americans to academia and other areas throughout the history of their oppression. Asante firmly believes that the teaching of the more brutal details of the Holocaust of Enslavement would allow young African American’s to gain a better sense of identity, of who they are and the circumstances that brought them to American. Teaching these omitted details would also help young white children to better understand how African Americans have come to be in the circumstances they are in now by knowing the progression of their race throughout history and how white oppression has impeded said progression. This new and hopefully mutual understanding, Asante argues, would perhaps inspire a desire in both youth groups to create a better environment for everyone. Later in the article, Asante also addresses his dissenters who disagree with his views, basically calling them out on wanting to preserve a racist system. I thought that this article and others like it, paired with the studies we discussed on how stereotype threat effects the testing abilities of stigmatized groups, could create a very strong foundation for an understandable argument for change. Together, they provide evidence that is simply to rational and powerful to ignore.
All of the articles can be found at Dr. Asante’s website: