This is What Students Are Saying About White-Washed History & Censorship in Schools

This is What Black Students Are Saying About MLK Day & White Supremacist Censorship in Schools

**This is our first ever piece written completely by high school students. We chose not to edit or alter it at all so as to retain the complete voice and message of the writers.**

Madison Lyman, Lincoln Preparatory Academy

What angers me about how MLK is portrayed is that he and Malcolm X were sworn enemies. I’d like schools to talk about him after his I Have A Dream speech because not only was that not the name of the speech but after that he became much more radical. 

I do think it’s connected to the white supremacists campaigns last year because they use MLK as a scapegoat in some ways. They use him and his speech as a reason for why black, brown and lgbtqia2+ shouldn’t talk about the problems they experience, because MLK wanted “everyone to work together and hold hands”. But they also use him to censor his own beliefs and just history in general.

The things that they have done with his image, is in my opinion similar to how they portray black people in tv and film today, ie à tool that helps boost the white main character, and à storyline that revolves solely around their white main character.

He is no longer human. white people have used his own speech to take away his humanity. They’ve turned him into a caricature and a weapon to use against Black people. They’ve turned him into a catchphrase that by the end of his time on earth he didn’t even believe in, if he ever truly believed in it in the first place.

David Brox, Olathe School District

With time, the discussion of “controversial” Black issues has become less and less acceptable within schools. While it is rare to find teachers within our schools who will even tolerate the open-ended discussion of these topics, there indeed are some who do. However, the vast majority of teachers will only vaguely touch on the bare minimum of Black History to avoid discomfort at their own discretion.

Martin Luther King Jr, the reasoning for this day that some of us may just brush off as another day off from school, was a true hero and path-maker for the more expansive lifestyles in which we as a community live in today. Born in a time where Black individuals were thought of as less than or unequal to their Caucasian counterparts, Martin heavily sought out ways to peacefully bring equality to these communities so they too could have all of the same advantages and opportunities. As a Black individual in the modern day school system, it saddens me heavily to hear of educators not revealing all of the essential details of King’s life and what his main goal of all of his work was.

In addition to this, I have noticed that teachers sometimes reverse roles, and can make the Black individuals seem rebellious without cause versus behaving in a non-socially acceptable manner due to striving for genuine change, and with this sad fact, a lot of misconception on the context of situations in history occurs. If schools could explain situations thoroughly without using a filter for White America’s discomfort, a lot of students in the education system and people in general could benefit from the extra knowledge as well as have more research to back up arguments and more contributions to racially centred discussion.

All in all, as time goes on, it is up to us as Black America to bridge the gaps and fill in the holes where information may have been missed or misconstrued by the people put up to the task of teaching it. For this MLK day and future MLK days, it is up to us to continue on with his work of educating those who lack knowledge and to continue spreading peace and love throughout America. Think of today as not another Monday, but as a day of important milestones being reached to give us life as we know it today.

Camille Moore, Lincoln Preparatory Academy

I’m sick of how Kansas City Is so rooted in racism, there was an issue with changing a street name near Emmanuel Cleaver Blvd to Martin Luther King Jr in his honor. Also i’m saddened that details of MLK’s Death and killer(s) aren’t clarified better to the public & whether or not U.S. agencies were involved in his killing.

Americans must look at how our history has been distorted by our predecessors and how that has controlled the mental processing of our communities and youth. For rumors to linger within our country of FBI involvement in his death without clear clarification to the people. Blatant disrespect, and Hate is upheld by our government agencies, institutions, and officials.

Growing up I remember being taught about how MLK and Malcom X were enemies. They hated each other and would often get into fights about how to fight racial injustice everywhere. It’s not until a couple months ago I was educated about how false this was. It was hard for me to believe, in all my years of schooling I’ve been told the same thing over and over again.

This is one of many flaws in our education system, the misinformation being taught to us. This all springs from white supremacy and the fact that the education system isn’t meant for students of color. This is obvious due to recent conversations of Critical Race Theory and certain books being banned from schools. They use MLK as a mascot of sorts, a puppet they can twist and manipulate to make him be whoever they want. 

 I’m tired of hearing about the same people over and over. Not that I don’t respect and appreciate their contributions, I just wish we could hear about lesser known people. I’ve noticed that schools take pride in doing the bare minimum when it comes to lessons on black history figures. If I had to sum up the entire education system this is what i’d say, “Performative Allyship. ”

They’ll hold half done assemblies for Black History Month and call it a day. That’s all they need to give, they’ve given enough time to our cause. Personally i’d like to see more black student-led black organizations at schools. Or a total revaluation of our curriculum. Id like the question “How can we make our history classes (or just school in general) more equitable for our students of color?” asked. 

 As previously stated, our entire education system is deeply rooted in White Supremacy. School is not made for children of color nor will it ever be ready for them. Not without a massive update to the curriculum. Not without our history being taught accurately to students. So it’s up to us, we are the future of education and the future of our systems we can choose to keep it the way it is or help fix it.

Christjin Bell, Raytown South High School

Right before he died, his transition to more Malcolm X views is very important. Helping actually portray his life how it actually was. Everything AFTER the I Have a Dream Speech. The work he did aside from Marching. 

Important that we Give MLK his humanity. White people don’t look at him as a human being. He has been portrayed as this messed up form of a deity and been used to demonize modern day radicalist. When he himself was a radical. Fighting for aggressive political change. He knew that his original thought process of non violence wasn’t working, so he was changing.

His values were shifting and non black people saw this. Four years after the oh-so iconic I have a dream speech he did an interview. In this interview you could see the change in his tone, in his demeanor. He would go on to describe how his once dream turned into a nightmare.

His “superficial optimism would need to be tempered with solid realism. He also went a long to describe the issue of white Americans only going so far for equality. King felt as though he only had the major support of white people at Selma because of the extreme behavior of white southern racist.

They would only fight to stop the specific form of racism. He gave examples, such as it’s much easier to integrate a bus then it is to guarantee everyone has access to equal education. He said that we are moving from a new era of the struggle. A struggle from decency to a struggle for genuine equality. And to this day this new era is still here. Leading to his murder, they knew he was going to organize the people. Much like Malcom and much like Fred. Doing what America does best, fearing of the “Black Messiah” 

Breanna Bonner, Raytown South High School

As a kid, I grew up believing that dr. King was  nonviolent, peaceful under all circumstances, and willing to work with whoever to get civil rights. The portrayal has caused me resentment towards MLK. Sure he was nonviolent, but why is he the example always used to silence me when I speak out against the state-sanctioned murder of my people? After watching Selma, I really was done with him: how could such an incredible leader watch a woman be beat in front of him?

The answer is that the MLK portrayed in Selma and  American society never actually existed. The REAL Martin Luther King was a democratic socialist who believed in organizing economic protests as well as non violent ones. The real MLK understood ,” We cannot solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… “ The real MLK was a threat to the liberal establishment. 

And yet, most modern black radicals tell stories of being scorned by white liberals for their anti-capitalist work, being told “ MLK would never agree with such a violent protest”. It is appalling  that liberals and conservatives alike have used him as a ‘whip’, a clap-back to tame and silence black people. 

We know MLK would agree with the work of revolutionary activists today. In fact, there are multiple organizations in Kansas City carrying on his legacy. Consider following KcTennants, Liberation Lit, and the Kc revolutionary black panther party to participate in KC’s move towards black liberation, and celebrate MLK day by refusing to settle for anything other than black liberation. It’s what the real Dr. King would want.

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