Magazine article Multicultural Education

Humanities Curricula as White Property: Toward a Reclamation of Black Creative Thought in Social Studies & Literary Curricula

Magazine article Multicultural Education

Humanities Curricula as White Property: Toward a Reclamation of Black Creative Thought in Social Studies & Literary Curricula

Article excerpt


The curricular choices educators make when selecting certain words over others, adding or omitting certain characters, or using a curriculum that tells a story from a certain or single perspective will meaningfully determine which prisms or conceptualizations students cultivate to understand our world. Contortion by elite White male "victors," representations of the dispossessed or the racialized Other, and a concomitant racist, sexist, and classist social order permeate such curricula (Au, Brown, & Calderón, 2016; Loewen, 1995).

This problematic scheme reflects a broader project of White supremacy that has historically harmed, and continues to harm, Black students-stunting their capacity to engage with a rigorous humanities curriculum. As two Black women who were former middle school humanities teachers of predominantly Black students, we have witnessed this systemic assault on our students' learning and creative potential.

However, we believe that expressions of Black creative thought, especially in classrooms, inform realizations about Black childhood and adulthood (R. N. Brown, 2013). In this article, we interrogate the harmful, anticritical, Eurocentric nature of humanities curricula and share the classroom strategies we developed and employed to mitigate it. We present the line of critical multicultural inquiry we continually pursue for redress.

Furthermore, we thoughtfully, yet unapologetically, examine Black students exclusively in this article. We are aware that doing so might falsely suggest our endorsement of rigid identity politics. However, we want to be clear that "writing about Black people only becomes essentialist when the experiences discussed are taken to portray a uniform Black experience or a universal experience that applies to every other group" (Roberts, 1998, p. 857), which this does not.

Finally, considering the importance of creative thought and how crucial critical thinking is for creativity to effectively transpire, we acknowledge that Black students' classrooms tend to look more like containment facilities rather than places where imagination, creativity, innovation, freedom, and autonomy are practiced (Hayes & Juarez, 2012; Irvine, 1999; Lleras, 2008).

Accordingly, we assert that Black students are being intellectually oppressed, and they will not be able to tap into their full creative capacity until educational stakeholders rectify these institutional problems by crafting enriching learning spaces in which Black students' critical creativity can flourish.

Purpose, Significance, and Organization

We aim to connect humanities curricula to Black students' creative thought and clarify the stifling nature of the current relationship between the two. To show this connection, we seek to elucidate how institutional hegemony systematically denies Black students agency and freedom since anti-Black racism is the fulcrum of White supremacy (Dumas & ross, 2016; Nakagawa, 2012). To further this point, our conceptual orientation emphasizes that White ownership of humanities curricula upholds White domination.

We have focused on the humanities curricula because the complexities of the human condition are explored in the humanities, meaningfully shaping the perspectives, assumptions, and epistemologies students will grow into and use to interpret and navigate society; thus the distinct and severe consequences of studying the humanities warrant careful, critical scrutiny.

This article represents our response to the gaping holes that exist between academic scholarship and practice-based work for educators. We blend theory and experience to describe our attempts to strategically engage, confront, and correct harmful ideologies in curricula to move toward reclaiming humanities curricula for the purposes of Black creative thought.

The personal anecdotes we present may serve as adaptable models for practitioners to contest Black ideological oppression in education. …

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