BLM is coming to a school near you
School districts across America are voting to include Black Lives Matter in their primary and secondary school curricula. Because whether BLM is taught at all should largely be dependent on how it is taught, it's important to get a handle on the factual and ideological premises behind it.
In a February letter to his staff, Allen Bourff, the superintendent at Indiana's Hamilton Southeastern School, created a firestorm by instructing that BLM should be taught as a political issue, not as a social issue. Some BLM-supporters strongly objected. Indiana's Racial Equity Community Network released a statement: "The Black Lives Matter movement is not an extremist political group, as many white residents asserted in recent complaints to the school board and administration. The BLM movement isn't about politics; it's about humanity."
The BLM website directly contradicts that assertion, aligning with Dr. Bourff's take: "Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise."
Regardless of its counterfactual assertion that black lives are "systematically and intentionally targeted for demise," BLM describes itself as an ideological and political movement. Why should it be treated otherwise?
Some argue that BLM: the organization is different from BLM: the movement. This is a distinction without a difference. Are we, as reasonable, logical adults, to understand and define BLM as something different from how BLM defines itself? If there is a BLM lesson plan, who defines what BLM is, and from which source would he acquire information pertaining to the BLM movement?
Another difficulty in presenting BLM to students at the primary and secondary level is the idea of "systemic racism" that underpins BLM's reason for being. Although BLM does not define systemic racism on its website, we can look to other organizations to fill in the blanks.
According to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African-American History and Culture, if you subscribe to traits such as individualism, empiricism, objective-linear thinking, and punctuality, you are part of the White Supremacy power structure. But aren't these the traits for which we send our children to school?
Another question is, who will teach BLM? Instructing children about the arguments surrounding a political and ideological movement requires a logical, reasonable, rational, dispassionate approach. It is reasonable to ask if primary and secondary teachers are educated and trained to address political and ideological material objectively, without fear or favor. It takes tremendous self-discipline to present the material surrounding this issue in the manner it requires.
One could argue that secondary-level teachers daily present material on Marxism, capitalism, mercantilism, feudalism, and other ideologies, but these curricula have developed over decades, and a consensus has been formed on their definition and presentation. BLM, on the other hand, was founded in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrice Cullors, the last of whom describes herself as a "trained Marxist."
Moreover, teaching BLM is different from teaching Marxist theory. Instead of the Marxist proletariat, BLM substitutes race and sexual/gender identity as oppressed classes. Culturally and institutionally, for the most part, we've reached a consensus about traditional Marxist theory, but this modern iteration hasn't been sufficiently critically analyzed to introduce into our schools.
Most troublingly, when it comes to teaching BLM to schoolchildren, we would be asking them to accept and internalize BLM's foundational lies — namely, that America is a structurally racist society that targets black men for murder. BLM's "Herstory" page says the "murders" of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown were the driving force behind BLM's existence.
While both men were killed by non-blacks, neither was murdered. In Martin's case, a jury acquitted the shooter, George Zimmerman, of murder. The evidence showed that Martin brutally attacked Zimmerman and tried to beat him to death before Zimmerman shot Martin.
Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer after Brown assaulted the patrolman and tried to steal his weapon. Even Eric Holder's Justice Department, which never met a racial conflict it could not exploit, passed on indicting the officer. Yet BLM describes both deaths as racially motivated murders.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was once confronted about a lie she told in justification of a policy position. She responded that it is more important to be morally correct than to be factually correct. Is it morally correct for us to teach our children BLM's ideology without examining its foundational lies?
The most troubling aspect of this conflict is that we cannot openly discuss the issue without accusations of racism. Such accusations stifle and smother rational discourse and debate. To reach a consensus, we must approach this and similar issues assuming the people with which we disagree are acting in good faith. This discussion is happening now in school districts across the country, and we must insist that our local school boards and administrators stand up to the accusations of racism and do the right thing.
Chris Boland can be reached at email@example.com.