Conservatives Attack Text Book That References the Black Lives Matter Movement Before Its Debut

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Macalester College Professor Duchess Harris
Macalester College Professor Duchess Harris

Conservatives are attacking a forthcoming textbook line for middle and high school students that references current events such as the Black Lives Matter movement.

Larry Elder, an African-American radio host, accused the book of “indoctrinating” Black children and teaching them to embrace victim hood. That’s a serious charge about a textbook that has yet to debut. It appears that simply because the textbook, which Minnesota publisher ABDO will release this fall, discusses Black Lives Matter, right-wingers such as Elder and Daily Caller education editor Eric Owens view it as threatening.

“It’s never too early to teach young children to revel in racial discord fomented by radical intellectuals who believe American society is hopelessly and structurally oppressive,” Owens wrote of the new book.

Owens also seems less than thrilled that the textbook, coauthored by Macalester College American Studies Professor Duchess Harris, who’s Black, and Sue Bradford, a white journalist, received a “gushing review” from the Feminist Wire website. To boot, the authors have the gall to want to teach non-Black children about “anti-Blackness,” “anti-Black violence” and “terror” in the United States, Owens points out. To his dismay, it also explains how “Black people have been killed with impunity… since time immemorial.”

Owens accuses the authors of wanting to cash in on “what they view as a vital market niche,” citing how Black Lives Matters activists have recently made headlines for their run-ins with politicians such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

But since when does reporting on current events mean an author simply wants to profit from a “vital market niche?” The Black Lives Matter movement has routinely been described as the civil rights movement of the 21st century. It will go down in history and any history book worth its salt would record the protests, social media activism and media attention the movement has received. What’s more is that critics of the book have disregarded that it also focuses on a number of other current events, including ISIS, the Ebola crisis, the LGBT movement and the debate over vaccines.

While the book has garnered interest from public schools in St. Paul, Minn., Harris says it will be distributed across the country. The coauthor, however, isn’t concerned about the backlash her soon-to-be released book has received from the right.

“They do not have a copy of the book, so they have not seen the book,” she told ThinkProgress of its critics. She also said that it’s important to teach non-Black children about anti-Black violence.

“I have a lot of white friends who approach me who asked what could they use to facilitate these conversations [about Black Lives Matter],” she said. “I’m Black, my husband’s Black, my kids are Black. They don’t need a guidebook. It’s those other parents who do.”

She wants to prevent the current crop of students from being as uninformed about Black Lives Matter as her college students have been about the civil rights movement. The undergrads she teachers often have a superficial understanding of Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights, Harris said.

Additionally, she continued, “People are concerned about talking about contemporary race relations.”

Yet conservatives have taken a number of measures to prevent youth from having these discussions. In 2010, Arizona, a red state, banned school districts from teaching K-12 students ethnic studies courses. And that same year, Texas, a fellow red state, adopted curriculum standards that glossed over issues such as slavery and racial segregation or that the Ku Klux Klan even existed.

Conservatives have demonstrated in recent years just how hell bent they are on denying the atrocities that people of color have endured on U.S. soil. But skating over issues such as Black Lives Matter won’t benefit schoolchildren. They hear about it on the news, read about it on social media and discuss it with family members or friends.

Why not give youth the tools they need to discuss the movement in a productive and informed manner? Secondary school students are certainly capable of confronting the facts. It’s conservatives who appear to have trouble facing reality.

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