Posted by : Halima Khait Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I'm in the process of reading Fraternity by Diane Brady. I find the subject matter largely uninteresting - the book relays College of the Holy Cross' efforts to attract more black men in the '60s - because having personally experienced being recruited by and attending a liberal arts college with a small percentage of minority students, reading this is like reading the journal I maintained as an undergrad.

I have taken a liking to a key player in the book, Reverend John E. Brooks S.J., the catalyst for Holy Cross' diversity push.

Rev. Brooks' views about what an integrated educational system should look like struck a chord with me.

"Was it fair to subject black students to a body of knowledge that had been forged by centuries of white men?...It wasn't enough to let in black students...the school needed to change."
And I would expand that last statement to say, the education system needs to change.

As a holder of a B.A. in African American Studies with a focus on Literature, one of my biggest gripes is that I can't just say, I was a history major, or, I studied literature. I am forced to differentiate an area of study because America continues to fixate on its citizens' differences. Although I studied the history and literature of a people in this country, I’m forced to refer to my area of expertise as though it exists halfway around the world.

These distinctions exist because it’s
the desire that our mainstream education system remain stagnant. For instance, literary classics should be the gold standard regardless of (or more likely, because of) the antiquated views they posses and history should be taught in the same manner regardless of the common knowledge that it’s been skewed to promote the interests of involved parties.

But how many histories can one country have? And more importantly, why has every other culture’s history been adopted into and taught as American history while our history remains its own category?

I know that by asking for our history to be regarded as simply American history, I’m asking for a lot. It involves the people in power accepting not only factual information, but also us as a people. Delving even deeper, this involves accepting responsibility for what’s been done to keep us on the periphery. I’m aware this is counterproductive to their goals and therefore unrealistic.

Therefore, it is our job to stop getting distracted - trying to keep up with the Joneses or trying to actively rebel by creating a counterculture that is becoming more meaningless by the day. We need to define and focus on our own needs as Americans.

Our history in this country predates slavery and even the arrival of European settlers. So, we need to acknowledge that we're more than just a small portion or an appendix to our country's history. And once we accept this, we need to share the knowledge because regardless of a person's race, ethnicity or culture, if they live here, our history, as American history, affects them.

The diversification in our country's education isn't going to start at the top because like I previously said, the people at the top have a vested interest in keeping things the way they are. So we need to educate each other. I'm trying to do my part through this blog, but I still have a lot to learn, so please treat this as a forum to hold conversation, share ideas and information.

2 Responses so far.

  1. keep writing. the progression towards former aptitude is evident.

    even though you have the experience of being apart of a college diversity initiative, holy cross directed its efforts to attract more black men specifically. does the book offer you any additional viewpoints from that perspective?

    I read a national geographic article about the conflict between devout shia and sunni Muslims in the Arab world, because relatively small differences in religious beliefs and understandings. it struck me as odd because while i knew about the various
    sects of islam, i just assumed they all got along. is the highlighting of differences between people an American condition, or a human one?

  2. Holy Cross was recruiting men because at the time, it was an all male institution. Their recruitment tactics were much the same as what happened with us: offers to visit the school, shown around by minority students, financial aid and the lure of a more promising future simply by having the college's name on your resume. The book did mention a couple of the men who were recruited due to sports scholarships, but that wasn't focused on. So no, no new perspective.

    I think the highlighting of differences between people is not unique to America, but that it always has to do with the political system running the country. For instance, in communist countries, the political machine runs by limiting personal differences. Whereas in America and "the Arab world" the political systems have something to gain by focusing on differences. In short, no I don't think highlighting differences is a human condition - I think people strive to connect and therefore find similarities - I believe that focus is learned behavior bought into by the masses and benefitting a few.

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