My Language Should Have Been Celebrated, Not Reprimanded

By Boluwasefe Adelugba

This essay is part of the Student Agenda Essay Series, where students are sharing the pillars of the National Student Agenda that resonate most, and why they take action.

Bolu, pictured here, is a first year student at Texas A&M University.

“History is always written by the winners.” (Pieter Gyel)

America is the winner of almost every single war they have ever been a part of. They won the American Revolution, Civil War, and World Wars. They have shaped the history books in terms of their view, no criticism on the possibility of them being in the wrong and no inclusion of those who they don’t find important. I loved history though. I enjoyed the perspectives, the stories, and the drama of it all, but I quickly came to the realization that it wasn’t broad or from the perspective of something other than a white man.

History is written by America, but history is not America and America is not the world. 

The way we teach history perpetuates white supremacy, it continues the horrifying trend of “if it isn’t about a white man or affects a white man, it doesn't matter.” If I chose to only know what my schools have taught me about Africa, I would know nothing but the Triangular Trade and the richest man being Manus Musa, but I knew there was more. I’m Nigerian-American, specifically Yoruba, and I grew up understanding the riches of Africa after my parents would come back home from their trips, telling me stories and bringing back items from their home. I knew the truth about Africa and I knew the lies; the lies that stemmed from the lack of information that U.S. curricula gives students. 

Today’s curriculum taught in classrooms not only doesn't prepare students for the real world, it prepares students for a world built on white supremacy and if we plan to dismantle that type of thinking we must start with the children in the classrooms. School districts do not deserve all the power in deciding what and how we learn when they haven't been in classrooms for the most recents years.  Students deserve a voice in our own education — from attending school board meetings to finding ways to speak out, students should be able to speak up about their  stance on a true comprehensive education with an accurate representation of the world around us.

My voice once mattered, but only for a fraction of a second and somehow the words that flowed out of my mouth were twisted into something they were not, twisted me into something I was not. I was in 3rd grade when I realized that within the four walls of my elementary school, my voice didn’t matter. As I got older I saw the signs more clearly, the questions like “Is English the only language spoken in your home?” doesn’t always come from a place of concern or help, but rather picking away at people for things they deemed issues. My mom always told me to lie, to tell people that she or my father didn’t speak and engage with us in their native language of Yoruba more than 50% of the time because she knew, better than me, that the perspective wasn't the same. Somehow the need for a student to learn a second language should only be the “ good ones” or the important ones. Those can help your education and progress your critical thinking. My language would hinder me and it was categorized as a hinder. 

“Your daughter has an issue with understanding the language of English due to the mixture of languages being taught at home.” Words like skirt and shirt would be a tongue twister —  but comprehension was not the issue, but rather the pronunciation. If my skin was another color and if my parents were teaching me Italian or French, a European language, the blame would not have been put on my parents. Yet, I was a child unaware that this was just the first step of my voice being snatched from me and that even when I left the suffocating K-12 system, that as a black woman my voice would still not be heard.

My background wasn’t a speed bump in my education like how it was perceived, but rather a leg-up.