The Mis-Education of White Folks
June 11, 2020 5:24 AM   Subscribe

Thanks for this. I especially think this is important:

"As white people, we cannot remain as we have been and expect the structures of white supremacy to magically disappear. Nothing less than a complete undoing of white identity and consciousness as its been constructed since at least the 15th century will suffice if we truly want to end the hegemony of white supremacy in the United States."
posted by allthinky at 5:50 AM on June 11 [13 favorites]

There's a book I have called History In The Making - it's an analysis of how history has been taught over the years in the US, and it does so by singling out a handful of historic incidents and then printing excerpts from different high school history textbooks over the years to compare how they each addressed that incident.

One of the incidents they look at is the start of the Mexican-American War. One of the textbooks they quote from that addresses that incident is from 1880, and I have found only PART of that excerpt on line, but it gives a good taste of what the rest of the excerpt was like.
Mexico, the capital of the ancient Aztecs, the seat of the Spanish American empire in America, had passed from Aztec and from Spaniard to the Anglo American - the Northman of the Goths, the Saxon of Germany, the Englishman of America; the same bold, hardy, energetic, ingenious, invincible, ambitious, and adventurous being, whose genius the forms of civilization cannot confine and to whose dominion continents are inadequate. In what hour of time, or limit if space, shall this man of the moderns - this conqueror over land and seas, nations and governments - find rest, in the completion of his mighty progress? Commencing his march in the cold regions of Scandinavia, no ice chilled his blood - no wilderness delayed his steps - no labor wearied his industry - no armies arrested his march - no empire subdued his power. Over armies and over empires - over lands and over seas -in heat, and cold, and wilderness and flood - amidst the desolations of death and the decays of disease - this Northman has moved on in might and majesty, steady as the footsteps of Time, and fixed as the decrees of Fate!
There is another paragraph or two in that vein, going on to suggest that the ultimate outbreak of hostilities in Mexico was a pre-ordained final reckoning between the noble Anglo-American and the Spanish (I believe they also discuss how the Spanish ancestry was influenced by "the Moors"), urging the reader to reflect upon how these two races were drawn to an ancient land to engage in a battle in which there would ultimately be only one winner, and that winner would thereby prove who had the superiority over all of creation.

This is what the history books in the 1880s were saying about an imperialistic land grab on the part of the early United States which is rarely, if ever, discussed today.

I am lead to two conclusions - firstly that white supremacy in United States education started way early, and secondly that one of the reasons why the Mexican-American war has been de-emphasized since is because it's no longer a way to teach that white-supremacy message. Or, that history was never the point in teaching this incident.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:55 AM on June 11 [24 favorites]

It’s a riot. The rioters are shooting paint at people sitting on their own property, pushing over old men, slashing tires, and using tear gas on people who aren’t doing anything wrong.
posted by Anne Neville at 6:05 AM on June 11 [28 favorites]

Looking back on my schooling in the South (80s-90s), history consisted mainly of American (as in white USian) history, focused on WWII and before, with a strong focus on the civil war, and a quick glossing over of the civil rights movement so that we would get the impression that explicit racism was over and done with and we didn't need to worry our pretty little heads about it.

Surprisingly, despite the centering of the civil war, it was light on explicit lost cause mythology shit and was pretty explicit about the South shooting first and the war being primarily about ending slavery. That was offset by the way Reconstruction was presented, though. It wasn't that we were taught that Reconstruction was meant to punish the South, though. It was mostly ignored, leaving aside the white terrorism almost entirely, but with a (small) side helping of corrupt Northerner propaganda.

Only in my high school world history class did any kind of nonwhite perspective even mentioned at all.

There was also a lot of glorification of expansionism and native removal, though tempered somewhat by talking about the trail of tears and how treaties kept being abrogated time and time again, forcing natives onto worse and worse land. But again, the primary purpose of that part of the curriculum was to paint a picture of those problems being in the past and not anything ongoing.
posted by wierdo at 6:41 AM on June 11 [13 favorites]

Looking back on my schooling in the South (80s-90s), history consisted mainly of American (as in white USian) history, focused on WWII and before, with a strong focus on the civil war, and a quick glossing over of the civil rights movement so that we would get the impression that explicit racism was over and done with and we didn't need to worry our pretty little heads about it.

Northeast white suburban boy checking in. I can't say that we spent much time on that period of American history at all -- 9th grade was world history, 10th was mostly European, 11th was 18th and 19th into early 20th century American, 12th was US Government & Economics. But the realities of "4/5 of American history has been reluctant at best, and aggressively hostile and violent frequently to treating non-WASPs as full people" simply didn't make it into our curriculum. We see a (slight) mix of races here in our classroom, so things got fixed in the 1960s and they are All Right Now, aren't they?
posted by delfin at 7:07 AM on June 11 [8 favorites]

There are so many good lines in that essay. Thank you for posting it. A particular favorite of mine: "When African American people struggle in the United States economically or judicially, I was taught that it could have something to do with their culture. But I was never taught that it might have something to do with mine."
posted by gauche at 7:14 AM on June 11 [31 favorites]

This part really speaks to me:
The appeal to color-blindness is still a liberal strategy (but now used by conservatives as well) of erasure and myth-making that helps bolster the reproduction of white supremacist ideology; it erases whiteness from the history of white racial violence and the domination and exploitation of people of color
Color-blindness is still held as such an ideal for anti-racism by so many people. But the ignorance it demands is hideous.

If I may indulge a self-link, I wrote awhile ago about my white supremacist indoctrination (content warning: racism). I grew up in Houston in the 70s and 80s in a polite well off white family. The things I was taught are, in retrospect, just hideous. I feel they are still inside me, infecting me.
posted by Nelson at 7:16 AM on June 11 [24 favorites]

Thank you for posting this. In all other circumstances i probably would have sighed and nodded and moved on, but Floyd's murder has prompted what feels like an openness to conversations on race in my workplace and some white members sharing that they're starting to understand that something is wrong. I shared the essay with my colleagues.

My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking when I shared it, because as a POC I am terrified of offending a white colleague and initially layered it with all sorts of disclaimers about how i didn't want to offend and i wasn't being accusatory of my colleagues....but then I realized I was giving them an out and i was playing to the same system of white fragility/supremacy that the author talks about.

.......lord i hope it's received okay.
posted by Karaage at 7:30 AM on June 11 [41 favorites]

whose genius the forms of civilization cannot confine and to whose dominion continents are inadequate

Well, this is true by all evidence, but not the compliment the author may have thought.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:33 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]

Well, this is true by all evidence, but not the compliment the author may have thought.

The author in that instance was a Gilded-Age era white supremacist imperialist douchebag who didn't know any better.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

My grandfather used the same term for Brazil nuts (we all know what it is, right?), and told me about it in the same tone as Nelson’s grandmother. And he treated me like I was saying something ridiculous and trivial when I objected.
posted by Anne Neville at 7:58 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, Anne Neville.

It's not that there's a racist word for Brazil nuts. That's not shocking. What's shocking is in 1980 something my white grandmother taught it to me, a white child, as one of my little bits of secret heritage of white supremacy. That here between us we could use this horrible word, because we were white. Our own little secret hate handshake.
posted by Nelson at 8:07 AM on June 11 [10 favorites]

Very few contexts are appropriate for "not ALL..." comments. This one is especially no exception.

White culture is full of racist terms for innocuous things. My own childhood didn't have it for brazil nuts; it definitely had it for some playground games. Others did have it brazil nuts and probably didn't for similar playground games. It isn't about universality of any particular excrescent symptom: it's about those symptoms expressing the underlying sickness.
posted by Drastic at 8:23 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]

I've realized there is still something for me to reflect on with my "oh gosh no we didn't use that term for [insert item here]" reaction:

….At the end of the day it doesn't matter that I happened never to have heard of the racist terminology where I came from, and so there really wasn't a reason for me to have gotten that defensive. But defensive I got - as if my knee-jerk reaction was not to castigate the term and the culture that promoted it, but to publicly state that "I'm not like that!" I cared more for myself in that moment.

and while it's not inaccurate to say that in many parts of the country, by the 1970s, some of these racist terms were in the rear-view mirror (the counting-out rhymes in my part of the world had re-written their words to something more suitable, let's say), that doesn't mean that the racism behind them hadn't already left its mark on the culture around me. It would likely do me well to think about that instead of knee-jerking "I didn't say things like that though".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:40 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]

[One comment removed, and, yeah, a prompt to folks to be mindful about avoiding reflexive disclaimers that get into "well I didn't" or "not all white people" territory. It's fine, with some care, to talk substantially about your experiences with the stuff the article is about, of the endemic and pernicious nature of white supremacy in American culture, but let's avoid getting into defensive or self-exculpating comments.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:44 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]

This was a really great piece that I'm sending to my white friends who are struggling to understand what to do beyond protesting and donating. This footnote resonated with me, particularly in terms of my experiences on Metafilter and other white-dominated discussion spaces:
I will not address the issue of intersectionality in this discussion. My comments will be focused upon the issue of race and white supremacy. While I understand that we experience racial issues differently depending on our class, gender, and sexuality, I think it is vital that the issue of white supremacy is addressed as directly as possible and without distraction. In the final analysis, which this is not, I think bell hooks is correct when she describes our current system as an interlocking system of domination made up essentially of white supremacy-capitalism-patriarchy and as such represents a complex web of differential experiences. But intersectionality, I believe can also be deployed as a distraction, particularly by liberal white people who, in my experience, would like to talk about almost anything—gender, sexuality even class—before engaging in a critical analysis of white identity construction, white supremacy, and questions of culpability and privilege.
posted by Ouverture at 8:52 AM on June 11 [13 favorites]

My grandfather was spewing this filth circa 1990.
posted by Anne Neville at 9:23 AM on June 11

Similarly, it's the same reason the term "women and people of color" makes me feel a little weird. Since women of color are also people of color, it feels more like a way for well-meaning white women to construct a form of shared solidarity with people of color; it really seems to mean "white women and people of color".

But that's a form of solidarity that doesn't actually materially exist:
There is a greater gender wealth inequality when looking across individual racial lines. Per the 2015 Asset Funders Network report, the median wealth of White single women was $15,640. Yet, the median wealth for single Black women and Latina women was $200 and $100 respectively, about one cent for every dollar of White women’s wealth. On the other hand, while White men’s wealth was $28,900; Latino men’s wealth was $950 and Black men’s wealth was $300, about three cents and one cent on every dollar of White men’s wealth, respectively.
posted by Ouverture at 9:24 AM on June 11 [6 favorites]

I am lead to two conclusions - firstly that white supremacy in United States education started way early, and secondly that one of the reasons why the Mexican-American war has been de-emphasized since is because it's no longer a way to teach that white-supremacy message. Or, that history was never the point in teaching this incident.

I just learned about the occupation of Mexico City by US forces a couple of years ago reading that same wikipedia article. I'm a Texan born and educated in it's school system. My grandparents are Mexican. I don't remember learning about the Mexican-American war.

I'll add a reason why it's been de-emphasized or never taught: What respect for borders should we have if the US was willing to march marines into the heartland of Mexico? What respect should we have for borders if they were determined by an imperialistic land grab? Sure, the respect is enforced by violence, but there's no moral argument here. You want Aztlán? This is how we get Aztlán.
posted by Mister Cheese at 9:37 AM on June 11 [7 favorites]

I was so startled by reading a description of history education in mostly white public schools that was so exactly spot-on with what/how I was taught in the 70s that I had to check the author's name to make sure he wasn't a classmate. Thanks very much for posting this.
posted by JanetLand at 10:08 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]

The author in that instance was a Gilded-Age era white supremacist imperialist douchebag who didn't know any better.

Mark Twain was gilded age and anti-imperialist. People in that era could have known better, and should have known better.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:20 AM on June 11 [9 favorites]

I grew up in the Northeast, in the 50s and 60s, and did hear the rude playground chants and ugly term for brazil nuts. I am white, the town I grew up in was white ethnic with some old-time WASP families, and maybe four black families. What I was taught in school was much like what was described in this article, heavy on White and American exceptionalism. Gee, the USA never lost a war...I was very impressed with that...and when we studied the local Native tribes, they just seemed to have mysteriously faded away, leaving their arrow heads to be found in suburban woods. And of course we were not like the bigotted South.

My family was generally liberal for the time,Roosevelt Democrats leaning left, Trade Union supporters. We were not like "those people" with their open ignorant hatred, but I never questioned nor saw how different life was for those few black families here from ours, nor for all people of color. My excuse, how "that had nothing to do with me", was that my ancestors had all been in Europe at the time of the civil war, nobody related to me ever owned slaves, so even though white, I was not guilty, and ethnics were hated here too, etc etc. ad nauseum. I could not see myself in the big picture of systemic racism. But now bits of it still float to the surface of consciousness like rotten things in a stagnant, polluted pond.

Now I am trying to educate myself, and beginning to see the white privilege that has surrounded me and my family all our lives. There is so much I do not know, and did not see. The discrimination my ethnic ancestors faced is gone in the US, as we still have our white faces to vouch for our "worth" as humans, which people of color have never been able to assume in this country. Yes, this is a White issue...we created it and can't expect others to solve it or teach us how much were lies and cover for genocide in our education. We need to own our own complicity in racism, and to hell with our" fragility" as white liberals.
posted by mermayd at 10:22 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]

For whatever reason the old Schoolhouse Rock song Elbow Room was stuck in my head today. I took a fresh look at the lyrics and - gosh, that's certainly a cuddly version of Westward Expansion and ethnic genocide, that I remember I was singing about at age six or seven.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:13 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

It’s everywhere in some form. I think I posted before that a fellow N.C. friend moved to NY and then Boston and told me, it’s great up here but everyone’s really racist!

I am totally fine with the white unease and drifting that will come with really standing up to our racist and imperialist origins and admitting that these are not solved, past issues. Other groups have been shouldering that burden for way too long. Rename the buildings, tear down the statues, fix history education, reparations, whatever we need, let’s do it.
posted by freecellwizard at 2:01 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

I just learned about the occupation of Mexico City by US forces a couple of years ago reading that same wikipedia article.

Keep reading! It gets better, if by “better,” you mean “worse.” The Texas fight for freedom was a bunch of Anglo immigrants to Mexico pissed that Mexico didn't allow slavery. Stick around for a US ambassador colluding in the murder of the President of Mexico! Learn how the drug war in a Mexico is driven by US foreign policy and most of the guns are supplied by the US in one way or another! It just gets more horrifying!
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:03 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]

There’s also a new book and related Fresh Air interview about how actually the Texas Rangers were like 100+ years of terrible.
posted by freecellwizard at 2:38 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]

Thank you for bringing this to the fore, dark matter. So much of the education and experience in this essay was mine. School in rural and then suburban New England in the 70s and 80s meant I never had a black teacher, or any teacher of color. I only once or twice had a black classmate in primary school--and never thereafter. I went on to a public university where I also never had a black professor. But I did just barely begin to unlearn some of this mis-history. Just barely.

To pick one, this was exactly my schooling, "I was introduced to the Civil Rights work of Dr. King and Rosa Parks. I learned Parks was tired which is why she sat down on the seat in the bus. I learned that black people were once slaves and even after slavery officially ended were sometimes treated unfairly, especially in the South. I learned that because of the civil rights movement, black and white people now enjoy the same opportunities for education and economic mobility. I learned that race doesn’t matter anymore"

Fortunately I had a few out of school influences, but not enough to offset that framework.

Now I'm teaching young people in Japan. If I am honest with myself, I largely have this job because of white supremacy. So what do I do with it? The uprisings in the US are getting these students' attention. They have a more international outlook than Japanese students of 10 or 20 years ago by and large. They have questions about race and racism. They can be so naive, but they talk with me. Yesterday a handful stayed "after class" on Zoom and asked me directly about Trump and protests, and it was hard to make clear to them that white people like me are the problem and that we have to change ourselves. I hope I'm getting through. This essay is helpful for me to keep going.
posted by Gotanda at 5:25 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]

Keep reading!

I have! It's terrible!

And essential. Tonight my wife and I explained to our first grader that next year we'll be teaching him how slavery and colonization formed our modern nation with consequences that stay with us today. You know -- US history. This was after he lead his very brown grandpa and very white grandma into a discussion where they ended up explaining the theft of land by homesteaders helped by the US Army working to force Native Americans out. We've not discussed genocide in that context yet, but we'll get there.

We've also started getting into motivations for why the US teaches history the way it does. We're going to have to be careful about explaining white supremacy -- we're in a very white and rural area.

I hope any white parents reading this thread and comment will do their own research into US history, provide explicit explanation for the gaps our education system makes, and try to make up for it. Your kids need the tools to combat white supremacy as much as mine do.
posted by Mister Cheese at 11:05 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]

It isn’t just filling in the gaps. It’s also removing the things that are wrong.

For example, I remember being taught to sing “This land is my land” as a kindergartener, and also that my teacher thought it would be a better anthem than the actual anthem. At the time I parsed it as “this land is for all of us and that’s great!” (Which sounds good now, but it wasn’t just lying there for my ancestors to take!) Relatedly, in high school (in 90s suburban Colorado) I was taught that Manifest Destiny was part of what made America great. Part of that is true— if you take out the last word. Manifest Destiny helped make America. So, the word (and sentiment) of “great” needs to be taken out, and the concept, and I would argue word, “genocide” needs to be added. We were taught about the Trail of Tears, and that it was bad, but I wasn’t smart enough to see that the Trail of Tears was one manifestation of that supposedly good Destiny.

I also learned about slavery, and that it was an important cause of the civil war, and that Southerners and some northern city cops (? Dunno how that slipped in) were the bigoted ones, and that they were bigoted because they were dumb. (This one is a little odd because I’ve got cousins, mostly not at all dumb, who hail from the area where Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas meet. Still, I believed *other* Southern white people were dumb.). I also managed to get very confused about West Virginia, because I was taught it split from Virginia over slavery during the Civil War and thus was definitely not the South, but I was also taught that Appalachia was populated by dumb white people, and West Virginia was entirely in Appalachia.
Here, there’s plenty of wrong to be removed — some of it about Southerners being stupid, but a lot of it about bigoted people being dumb and all of it about bigots being people other than me. And also about the other reason I was taught about why the civil war happened— the lie of “state’s rights.” Sure, but it was really about one state right- the right to own slaves.

I really hope some 30 years later that it’s better, but if your kid is getting the same education I did there’s not just gaps (Tulsa in 1921! Redlining! Colorado’s governor was once in league with the KKK! Wealth disparity between races today is huge and a direct result of these past and current actions) —- but there’s also actively wrong ideas that you’ll have to fight (the land was empty, Manifest Destiny was good, Southern whites and other bigots are the only racists left and they are all dumb, States’ rights was the biggest reason for the civil war ).

There’s also the issue of what stories get told in our film and tv and books (Yes, some of which is also chosen by our educational system, because schools pick the books students have to read). My high school did have us read Black authors, including Zora Neale Hurston and Maya Angelou, but we read a lot more that weren’t. (And in the mostly white classroom, with most of the non European descent being Hispanic or Asian and very little from Africa, with a white teacher, there was no small amount of patting ourselves on the back for how non-racist we were. It wasn’t even “my black friend” it was “ I read a book by a black person!”).

And I also read Laura Ingalls Wilder, but we only talked about the blatant racism, not about how their act of settling further and further west was a problem itself. Loads of science fiction, populated with mostly male mostly white characters, as you could tell from the cover art. With the patriarchy one of the most insidious tropes is the male lead who finally wins the affections of a woman 1) as a random prize for some other feat 2) because he just waited around long enough until she fell for him . There’s a way to tell each of those tropes as if they were clearly “romantic”, and so it’s easy for a reader to think these are stories to hope for in your own life. For settler colonialism maybe it’s the romantic notion of “heading West”, stripped of any consequence. What are the equivalent literature tropes affecting Black characters? I know a few tropes, but only the blatant ones, and often only things that would be explicit in books from before, say , 1980. I don’t know the insidious ones, the ones that are constructed to give white readers the warm fuzzies about white supremacy. I’d better learn before some child I know asks me about it in a book they’re reading and I don’t even notice it’s a problem.
posted by nat at 2:15 AM on June 12 [7 favorites]

Growing up in Southern California in the 1980s, racism was covered to some extent in the school curriculum but it was definitely presented in the “a long time ago somewhere else” sense — no mention of how many sundown towns there were in Orange County or examination of the systemic effects of redlining, transit and road decisions, etc. It was especially weird to have César Chávez celebrated without any real explanation for why so many people cared about him.

One admirable exception to this was my AP Government teacher who enriched the curriculum with authors like Howard Zinn and James Loewen, and shared his experience being beaten by riot cops during a protest at SDSU. In a tragically American note, he retired early after a school shooting resulted in a student bleeding out in his care before an EMT arrived.
posted by adamsc at 8:30 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]

NPR from a few years ago talking about pushback on one effort to reform the AP US History curriculum.
posted by nat at 9:54 AM on June 12

The Mexican–American War started over a dispute over the Nueces Strip between the Rio Grande and the Nueces River (about 150 mi or 240 km north). The US claimed the Rio Grande was the border and Mexico claimed the Nueces was. The Mexican side is supported by maps of Coahuila y Tejas (the Mexican province Texas belonged to) and the Republic of Texas.

In 1845, US President James K. Polk, the Napoleon of the Stump, moved U.S. troops commanded by Major General Zachary Taylor into the Nueces Strip. After a skirmish in the Strip, Polk asked Congress to declare war because Mexico "invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil." Freshman Congressman Abraham Lincoln demanded to know the "particular spot of soil on which the blood of our citizens was so shed" but he was in the minority and Congress declared war.

In his memoirs Ulysses S. Grant said:
I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.
The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times.
The Texas fight for freedom was a bunch of Anglo immigrants to Mexico pissed that Mexico didn't allow slavery

Unlike the other Confederate states, Texas fought two wars in defense of slavery. Six Flags is named after the six flags that have flown over Texas: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States, and the Confederate States of America. The latter three allowed slavery.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:52 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]

It isn’t just filling in the gaps. It’s also removing the things that are wrong.

Definitely. My wife (mostly) and I got the d'Aulaires' Christopher Columbus book removed from our son's school curriculum. I read that book myself as a child and... ugh. The teachers were quick to take it off the reading list for next year's class, but why was it there in the first place? How many white parents in previous years gave it a thumbs up or pass? Does it really take some brown parents paying attention? We can't catch everything.
posted by Mister Cheese at 4:05 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

> "When African American people struggle in the United States economically or judicially, I was taught that it could have something to do with their culture. But I was never taught that it might have something to do with mine."

One of the founders of the "Chicago School" of economics: George Stigler in 1962 on "The Problem of the Negro"
Inferior Workers

Consider employment. The Negro boy is excluded from many occupations by the varied barriers the prejudice can raise, and these must and will be struck down. But he is excluded from more occupations by his own inferiority as a worker, again on average. Lacking education, lacking a tenacity of purpose, lacking a willingness to work hard, he will not be an object of employers' competition. What leader of Negro thought is fostering the ancient virtues of diligence and honesty and loyalty? It is so much easier to seek quotas for Negroes,

Consider the Negro as a neighbor. He is frequently repelled and avoided by the white man, but is it only color prejudice? On the contrary, it is because the Negro family is, on average, a loose, morally lax, group, and brings with its presence a rapid rise in crime and vandalism. No statutes, no sermons, no demonstrations, will obtain for the Negro the liking and respect that sober virtues commend. And the leaders of Negro thought: they blame the crime and immorality upon the slums and the low income—as if individual responsibility could be bought with a thousand dollars a year.
re: intersectionality as a distraction from white supremacy (and its removal), per Ibram X Kendi's "Stamped From The Beginning" -- it's not that racist ideas cause discrimination, instead it's the other way around: racist ideas were invented to justify discrimination:[1,2]
The beneficiaries of slavery, segregation, and mass incarceration have produced racist ideas of Black people being best suited for or deserving of the confines of slavery, segregation, or the jail cell. Consumers of these racist ideas have been led to believe there is something wrong with Black people, and not the policies that have enslaved, oppressed, and confined so many Black people.
the history and politics of white identity:[3]
...the answer to the question ‘In what kind of society do I want to live?’ has become shaped less by the kinds of values or institutions people want to struggle to establish, than by the kind of people that they imagine they are. And the answer to ‘Who are we?’ has become defined less by the kind of society they want to create than by the history and heritage to which supposedly they belong. The frameworks through which we make sense of the world are defined less as ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ or ‘socialist’ than as ‘Muslim’ or ‘white’ or ‘English’ or ‘European’.
posted by kliuless at 2:11 AM on June 13 [5 favorites]

So, I feel like a lot of this depends on the individual schools. Was racism covered in the K-12 school curriculum? Yes, but not in the deeper systemic sense that educators undoubtedly assumed (mainly white, suburban) kids would be unable to comprehend. Which I think is a terrible approach, because it's implying that the issue doesn't exist by not even attempting to broach the subject in terms that K-12 kids can digest.

What we got was the standard topics of slavery and abolitionism, segregation, and civil rights protests.

It's like you have to wait until college/university to get a full picture on what racism looks like in America, if then.
posted by Delia at 6:36 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]

Richard Pryor How Capitalism Promotes Racism - "When Richard Pryor was given his own television show he learned very fast how the Industry works."
posted by kliuless at 9:56 PM on June 15

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