However, the fact is that not only school occupies our children’s time (after all, they spend long hours every day there, locked up in a building which they cannot leave without permission), but school also occupies their mental space, and this is far from being as benign and positive as parents may imagine. This is even more serious for us, African people, since this school engineered mental occupation often results in our being inculcated with contempt for our ancestors, self-hatred, ignorance of self, in sum, a profound inferiority complex and alienation, what Afrocentrists call “dislocation,” and which I describe on this site.
In his excellent essay on the content of History textbooks in Ivory Coast, Shenuti Traoré clearly shows, for example, that those books are informed by highly political choices whose purpose it is to diminish Africa’s contributions at any cost in the eyes of young Ivoirian people. What is of course troubling is the fact that such books are still used in Ivory Coast, a country that has supposedly been independent since 1960! But even more disturbing is the fact that Ivory Coast’s case, far from unique, reflects a common situation against which neither the parents nor the teachers, and even less the students, rebel! Basically, the toxicity of the schooling that our children are subjected to, under the guise of education, is seldom acknowledged, and the danger that it represents is not combatted. We participate in the racist onslaught against our children and ourselves.
Not too long ago, I was talking in Guadeloupe with a young woman who had just graduated from high school. She was telling me that she was going to study in France, and that she knew that she would experience racism there. This, she continued, would be new, for she had never experienced racism in Guadeloupe. Such a statement surprised me greatly since Guadeloupe is a French colony, thoroughly controlled by whites.
I thus asked her if, in her opinion, the fact that she had never learnt anything about her ancestral land, Africa, and her ancestors, during 12 years of schooling, was not racism? If the fact that she was never taught that Africa was the birthplace of humankind and civilization was not problematic to her? I asked how come she could not cite the name of one single African king or queen –whom she looks like, while she was forced to memorize and could recite the names of at least 10 European royal figures –the very kings and queens who had ordered and condoned the enslavement of her ancestors? Was that not racism? The young woman, being intelligent and open-minded enough, agreed that there was indeed a problem with such teachings. However, I am pretty sure that she did not lose sleep over this that night! Most of us prefer to keep erring in the dark rather to question a vicious and devastating system.
However, whether we are willing to admit it or not, school remains a major agency of white racial supremacy. This is particular clear in the following areas: The Eurocentric orientation of the curriculum, which makes us feel inferior, and renders us invisible to ourselves while we are forced to become preoccupied with everything that happened or is happening in Europe; the often negative and condescending attitude of teachers vis a vis black children’s culture; the disproportionate placement of African children in special education classes; the targeting of black children for punishment and expulsion, which often leads them straight to court, and then prison. This is especially the case in Western societies, like the United States.
Marcus Garvey explained almost a century ago already that each people must build their own institutions, in order to build and strengthen themselves. The white tricks has been to make us want to participate in white educational programs, instead of applying ourselves to build our own educational institutions, which would reflect who we are and who we want to be. As long as we continue to surrender our children to such alien and hostile programs, we cannot really expect any change in our condition. We know so from experience.