Al Jazeera, anti-American, anti-patriotic, AP World History, APUSH, College Board, Contingent Faculty, Educational Testing Service, ETS, July 4th, K-16 Education, Respectability Politics, Slavery, Whitewashing History
This week, I published yet another article article in Al Jazeera English, this one titled “How US history is whitewashed in high school exams.” It’s about my experiences scoring AP US History and AP World History exams for the College Board through Educational Testing Service as a contingent faculty member. It was also about how the two organizations consistently present a sanitized version of both histories, excluding and marginalizing those of African, of Latinx, and of indigenous descent in the process. My biggest concern was that folks would find my treatment of the work of the College Board and ETS unfair. Or, that readers would disagree with me personally, attacking my intellect and my race purely out of racism and jingoism.
On the second concern, I was mostly right, but not quite in the way I expected. At least three trolls accused me of being “anti-American” and “anti-patriotic.” Really? So, no critique of American education or of two education organizations can stand without it being a referendum on whether I am a patriot for America as it is instead of what I’d like it to be? The narcissism I see out of the mostly male, nearly all White set in the US — it must reside in a bottomless pit. Or in the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
Is calling out folks who believe themselves to be educators because they favored Japanese internment during World War II as an example of state-sponsored mass violence over slavery in colonial America/US really anti-American? Is pointing out the flaws in the politics around K-12 and college education in the field of history an example of my anti-patriotism? Should I be subjected to jingoistic scorn because I dare say that “[c]hattel slavery will always serve as a complicating counternarrative to The College Board’s trope of the West’s continual social and political progress?” If this is anti-American, then so is racism, misogyny, anti-Latino and anti-Arab xenophobia, and rolling tanks into DC on the 4th of July.
But, there was more. At least two trolls tweeted and messaged me about Al Jazeera publishing my article this week. One called me a “fool” because they saw me as a mere tool for their otherwise anti-Black stances and tropes in their coverage. Another tweeted twice, “QATAR LAW: Since 2004, Article 296 of the current Penal Code (Law 11/2004) stipulates imprisonment between 1 and 3 years for sodomy between men.” This because Al Jazeera is partially owned by the Qatari government. Last I checked, the British government partially owns the BBC. The US has repugnant laws and policies in place toward Blacks, Latinxs, Native Americans, women, LGBTQIA folx, and the millions living with poverty. Yet I’m supposed to not publish a piece with one of the largest news outlets in the world because it might make me a tool of the Qatari, and therefore somehow anti-American? Give me a break!
Ultimately, I published with Al Jazeera this time around because they allowed me the most space to air my first-hand account and analysis, without delay and without editing out my direct experience. As a freelance writer and someone with an affinity for the journalistic, that’s really all any professional can ask for.
What I cannot nor will not do, though, is back down or renegotiate my critiques about the US, as is my right as an American citizen. Nor will I attempt to tailor what I write for folks who otherwise stand in opposition to a curriculum that holds fast to Western sacred cows and American mythologies.
At a job interview I did a couple of weeks ago in New Jersey, a search committee member asked me this. “What will you do to reach those people on campus who don’t just have concerns” about my work and the work of the department I could’ve represented, “but are in opposition to your work” and the department’s very existence? “Ultimately, I don’t believe it’s my job to reach folks who stand in opposition to equality, to my insistence that I am equally human. Why would I want to spend time and energy trying to reach those people? We’ve tried that already. With respectability politics, with assimilation. It hasn’t worked,” was my response.
The same goes for the trolls on the Internet, who’ve never seen an idea from a Black man or a Black woman that they’ve respected, who will find anything short of an endorsement from 45 anti-American. I am not writing for you. I am writing for everyone else but you.
Catherine Lugg said:
I hate the higher ed “reindeer games,” around having a solitary black scholar educate the dumb white folk. And that’s exactly what is going on with that stupid question, “What will you do to reach those people on campus who don’t just have concerns”…. That sort of question speaks volumes as to how committed the institution is to maintaining white supremacy.
I’ve never seen Reindeer Games, but I have seen Point Break (the one with Patrick Swayze, from 1993). And yes, I felt like I was dealing with folks who thought that “compassionate conservatism” was a genius idea. I won’t name the institution, but think The Oranges.