Kudos to the Guilford Public Schools for addressing issues around racism as we navigate changing times. This is important work.
Growing up in Guilford during the Civil rights era, I learned in school about consequential legislation like the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, but we never fully addressed racial equity. The horrors of Jim Crow made it “easy” to be for Civil Rights for Blacks, because we treated it as a Southern problem. In those days, we overlooked our own complicity in perpetuating racism.
Today’s Guilford Public Schools (GPS) curriculum is finally facing the necessary but uncomfortable reckoning with our history of racism. Our discomfort should force us to come to terms with things we have done and said or supported that today could be seen as racist. Dr. Freeman and the GPS are prepared to directly engage the issues, and future Guilford students will be the wiser for this. They’ll be better prepared to interact in today’s complex society.
Teachers in the Guilford Public Schools are learning as well. Dr. Freeman took a bold step in assigning them How To Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi, Director of the Center for Anti-Racist Research at Boston University. Critics of Dr. Freeman are right that Dr. Kendi’s book is provocative. Reading such provocative literature can be a catalyst for working through these issues. In the early 70’s, at Guilford High School, we read the provocative book, The Autobiography of Malcom X. We were challenged and even disconcerted by Malcom X’s views, and learned a lot in the process.
Sanitizing history is not patriotic. America is stronger if we confront the good and the bad. Americans must understand our complex and sometimes ugly history as we strive to improve our country. Fifty years ago, many would have argued against the proposition that slaves were held in Guilford. In 2021, we know differently, having learned from the research of our Eighth Graders.
The Superintendent should stay the course and for the community to support him and our teachers in these efforts.