You Can Opt Out Of Studying Black History, But You Can’t Opt Out Of Living It

The school in Utah that made headlines allowing parents to opt out of their children learning about Black History Month has backpedaled. Public outcry and the state’s curriculum standards apparently caused them to rethink the decision to let ignorant parents extend their family’s ignorance of history into the classroom.

We’re all part of Black history, this month and every month. Our wealth as a nation is rooted in the stolen labor of Black people.

Some of us own homes and got to attend college due to our white privilege protecting us in every encounter with police. And protecting our parents, who lived to raise us. Who got their GI benefits when Black GI’s did not. Is it unfair that we all benefit from the inventionsinnovations, and art created by Black people in the U.S. and beyond?

I’m engaged in a delightful education project with two bright 3 year olds in Oakland, California who watched firsthand last summer’s massive demonstrations demanding that Black Lives Matter. Police violence is somewhat abstract to my students, but the rage and determination of BLM supporters is not. Occasionally one of the kids will pick up a sign on a stick and tell me they are protesting adding “Black Lives Matter” or “No justice, no peace.”

So they have the motivation and the context for studying some of the key Black people in our nation’s history. They are old enough to understand when something is not fair, but not old enough to have heard of civil rights leaders MLK, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, or even former 49er Colin Kaepernick.

Yesterday a new book, Young Kap, arrived in the mail and was read with interest. Last week a book on the Negro Leagues in baseball that I borrowed from the local library was a hit; most of the text is over their head, but not the excellent paintings by Kadir Nelson that accompany it. 

Also popular with my students: picture book Touch the Sky about the first Black woman to bring home gold from the Olympics. Ever heard of her? Alice Coachman is also on the cover of a book by that name that I wrote surveying the stories of women whose names ought to go down in U.S. history for their achievements. It was illustrated by Ruby Pfeiffle, and her portrait of Coachman is on the cover.

I used to teach older students about Black history including African civilizations of ancient times, slavery in the Americas, Jim Crow, the Northern Migration,  and the long struggle for civil rights. But since Michael Brown’s murder sparked Black Lives Matter rising up to define the struggle against white supremacist violence supported by government I’ve been a reading specialist working with much younger kids. Still, I’ve continued educating myself e.g. watching the documentary Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and reading books by Black authors including a recent holiday gift from a family member, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

So this opportunity to teach Black history is especially welcome. It’s not just confined to the month of February, either.

As a mother many years ago I helped one of my sons who has Black ancestry prepare for a book day presentation in 5th grade. He had chosen to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and he dressed as Malcolm to deliver the historic speech, “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. The rock was landed on us.” The white judges gave the prize to a girl dressed as Pippi Longstocking which made my son’s teacher mad. She felt the consensus of teachers and students was that my son had given the best presentation.

I felt my son learned a lot more by being penalized for appearing as a righteously angry, articulate Black leader. 

It was a teachable moment.

Black Lives Matter 2021: #SoHoKaren Miya Ponsetto Found In Calif.

Emmett Till’s funeral which was open casket because his mother wanted the world to see what the false accusation by a white woman had done to her child.

What are the impacts of the “Karens” of the world? Many on Twitter are pointing out that a false accusation by a white woman led to 14 year old Emmett Till’s brutal murder by a white mob in 1955.

Is it petty for social media users concerned with racial justice to focus on #SoHoKaren, a white woman who assaulted a 14 year old Black male on December 30 after falsely accusing him of stealing her phone in SoHo’s Arlo Hotel? (FYI, SoHo Arlo Hotel’s phone number is 212-342-7000.)


The teen’s father, accomplished jazz musician Keyon Harrold, said:

“I want my son to grow up whole. That’s all we want…

“I can’t even come downstairs in New York City…and just go get brunch without being attacked and wrongfully accused of something.”

Does it matter that the incident happened in New York City where a false report that a Black man bird-watching in Central Park was threatening her life led to Central Park “Karen” Amy Cooper being charged?

“Karen” has long since entered the lexicon to refer to women who use their white privilege to harrass and, often, endanger Black men, women, and children.

So when 22 year old Californian Miya Ponsetto is tagged “Karen” for literally tackling a young teen she decided had her phone (when she had actually lost the phone in an Uber) we all know what that means.

She’s dangerous. 

In an interview she gave to CNN she claimed she was assaulted, despite both hotel security cameras and the teen’s dad’s cell phone video which show otherwise.

Ponsetto turned up next getting McDonald’s takeout in Simi Valley, California after returning quickly from NYC. Where she does not reside. Nor was she a guest at the Arlo Hotel where the manager had her back rather than that of the Black family who were actually guests.

Ponsetto’s statements to the videographer that she’s 22 (i.e. 8 years older than the kid she assaulted while his dad defended him) and “I’m also Puerto Rican” may indicate privilege and may also indicate that she’s not very bright.

Doubtful that she’s as talented as the dad who tried to defend his son from her. Playing a mean jazz trumpet got Grammy-winner Keyon Harrold out of Ferguson, Missouri by his own account. Ferguson, where in 2014 officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown in the back over an alleged theft of cigars from a store —  and then left him to bleed out in the street. 

Our history of racial violence in the U.S. means that every Black parent must reckon with the risks to their self or their beloved children at any time of the day, in any location — including home.

I’m living in Oakland, California for the next few months within sight of the spot where another notorious Karen, “BBQ Becky,” called police on a Black family for using charcoal to cook in Lake Merritt Park. (If you watch the video to the end you will see great restraint on the part of a white Oakland police officer who manages not to laugh in her face — or kill her.)

I wrote about that incident at the time but here’s an update: that particular spot in the park became wildly popular with the Bay Area’s Black community for BBQ’s, parties, rallies, and performances. Many Black Lives Matter marches either began or ended there during the burning hot summer of 2020. Neighbors despaired of ever getting a quiet night’s sleep as firecrackers went off all night, every night.

Some boarded up their storefronts and fled to the suburbs. Which is actually where BBQ Becky was from. Thanks, Jennifer Schulte of Walnut Creek, CA.

White privilege means that fragile women feel free to call law enforcement to impose their own personal decisions about right and wrong — even when they are not on their home turf.

White privilege means white people consider anywhere their turf.

Like the lobby of a hotel where they are not even staying.