This week, three events incited my ire: the newly released data around racism in school discipline, Texas’ renaming of Mexican American Studies as Ethnic Studies, and the College Boards revision on the AP World History exam.
Today, history wins! As a former high school social sciences teacher and #EquityWarrior, those two decisions around social sciences curriculum were enough to make me sharpen my digital sword and prepare for battle.
Let’s start with Mexican American Studies. Tony Diaz, @Librotraficante, wrote an excellent piece in Latino USA, where he effectively excoriates the Texas State Board of Education’s whitewashing of the history of Mexican Americans. Just as a reminder, Texas used to be part of Mexico. My blog post of two weeks ago Not Under, Just Not… The Paradox of Privilege contains a few thoughts on that topic. Fortunately, as I am writing this post, I received word that the Texas State Board of
Education @TXSBOE has just voted to accept Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies. Chalk one up for #AcademicEquity.
Texas becomes the first state to endorse a K-12 Mexican American Studies course statewide. One down, 49 to go.
Now, about that AP World History Exam…
Think for a moment of all that happened in the world before Europe became a major colonizer in the mid-15th century. You don’t have to think that hard. The origins of mankind, whether you are an evolutionist or a creationist, reside on the African continent. Both the Bible and the Qur’an clearly place Adam in Mesopotamia, on the Arabian tectonic plate (with an expansive land bridge to the African tectonic plate) in roughly 2012 B.C.E., 4,030 years ago. Homo sapiens fossil records date back to 200,000 – 150,000 years ago. Genetic, cultural, and linguistic evidence show mankind’s migration from Africa to Europe around 10,000 years ago. I don’t need to be a math scholar to figure out that Africa’s human history is at least 140,000 years older than Europe’s, and 145,000 years older than the Qur’an and the Bible.
They weren’t just hanging out in the Savannah hunting and gathering. I’m just sayin’…
It is so easy to deny there was “civilization” in Africa and Mesoamerica when the European invaders brought devastating disease to both, and had a strong penchant for burning and destroying everything in their path. If you completely eliminate a people, you can conscript their science, their wealth, their resources, brand them as “savages,” and pretend they never existed. The College Board’s (and most American state’s) sanctioned history curriculum of the world would have you believe that the only civilization that ever existed on the African continent was Egypt. Of course, the U.S. public education systems also categorize Egyptians and other North Africans as white.
Why? Because the Anglo-dominant powers in America covet the contributions of these early societies, but their desire to maintain their privilege requires that the historical record containing the contributions of a people of color be whitewashed. Wiped out. Obliterated. Forgotten.
...the historical record containing the contributions of a people of color be whitewashed. Wiped out. Obliterated. Forgotten.
But let’s take it a step further. To understand the rationale for a Eurocentric, colonizer-focused world history from 1450 forward, you first have to recognize the historical contributions of early African civilizations and why certain powers would want to ignore them. Here’s a quick list:
- Mathematics/Number Sense: Recorded records from Africa more than 35,000 years ago.
- Division, Multiplication, Fractions: Egyptians scripted texts from more than 30,000 years ago.
- Geometry, Algebra, and Calculus: Egyptian records which predate the pyramids at Giza.
- Medicine: The earliest surgical record comes from Egypt c. 2750 B.C.E.
- Engineering: Beyond the Pyramids at Giza are the ancient cities in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and most notably Timbuktu in Mali. These cities had grand mosques and universities in the 12th century. In addition, the world’s earliest known structures are in South Africa. They are more than 75,000 years old, thus predating Egypt, Greek, and Roman Empires.
- Mining: The oldest known mine is in Swaziland and is approximately 43,000 years old.
- Advanced Metallurgy & Tools: Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda B.C.E. metal works far exceeded the technology of contemporary Europeans.
- Universities: The first university was the University of Al-Karaouine in Fez, Morocco, established in 859, more than 200 years before the first university appeared in Europe. It is the oldest continuously operating, degree-granting university in the world.
- Astronomy: The detailed astronomical observations of Ancient Mali stun modern scientists. The Dogon people were so advanced, scientists still do not understand how they discovered Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s moons, or the spiral structure of the Milky Way. Their knowledge predated Copernicus by more than 200 years. (It must’ve been the same aliens that built the pyramids.)
And then there’s farming, which originated… well, you know. Keep in mind, the first Europeans who came to North America would have all died had they not had the Indigenous Native Americans to feed them and teach them how to farm here. While decimating the Native American populations and destroying their civilizations, they established the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade so they could have someone else do the farming for them.
I could go on. There’s international trade, transatlantic navigation, philosophy, and art, but… you get the picture.
Perhaps a better name for the course they’ve redesigned is European Colonization and the Obliteration of the History of Africa.