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Growing Up Black in Georgia: What Banning Black History Means for Students Like Me

By Adunni Noibi

 

 

Growing up as a young, Black American in Georgia’s public schools, I sat beside and learned from people of all kinds. My county is the most diverse in the state, with nearly 150,000 students of color like me. I know the importance of true and raw history—learning about horrors like slavery and discrimination is never pleasant, but it is powerful. It is what binds us together as we look forward to America’s future and strive to make that future one where we can all succeed.

But right now in Georgia, there are dozens of bills targeting Black history, targeting my history. The politicians behind these bills deny this claim with poorly contextualized MLK quotes and arguments that racism looks like recognizing race. But that’s a lie. Just like bills that criminalize protest, suppress voters of color, and entrench oppression against people like me, these classroom censorship bills tell people like me, “you’re just not American enough.” 

In between homework and classes, I’ll read the headlines of these bills and see how broad these bans on Black history in school really are. We’re not just talking about the KKK. Some bills steal hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools who refuse to ban discussions of white supremacy. Some bills criminalize librarians if they don’t remove Toni Morrison from the bookshelves. Some bills ban teachers from receiving training on inclusion and antiracism, while some bills. Some ban truthful history in college classes, and some ban the recognition that racism is real in the modern day. 

I know racism isn’t just historic, because I live it every day. When legislators decided to defund schools for two decades (longer than my lifetime), disproportionately impacting majority-minority schools like mine and those across the Black Belt of South Georgia, that was racism. When none of my teachers look like me, that’s racism. And when we pass laws that affirm this bigotry, that’s systemic racism—the very form of racism our legislators deny exists. 

As a Black student who has sat in Georgia classrooms since I was six years old, this resonates with me, because it seems like bigoted politicians don’t care about my right to learn true history and learn about history that still affects me today. Racism isn’t when we acknowledge race - it’s when we erase it, erasing our history. In order for history to not repeat itself we must educate ourselves on everything that has happened, positive or negative. Instead of hiding behind this perfect “America has no flaws” facade, we must face these issues head on. That requires honest education. My peers and I should not have to skip class or spend our afternoons fighting and pushing for something our right to learn—but we will, and we are! 

On Friday, hundreds of students from schools across Dekalb and Fulton county gathered at the capitol—they spoke out, marched, and made calls to legislators to protest these bills. College students from universities like GSU, Georgia Tech, and UGA are testifying at committee hearings about how important protecting free speech is. Georgia’s youth know exactly what

these classroom censorship bills attack—the American history of Black people just like my family. 

If these bills pass, teachers will have to pull books off their shelves and strike history from their lessons. Books like “The Hate You Give” or “The Bluest Eye” express the reality of living as a Black person in America. I deserve the right to read, and so do my younger sisters and brothers. 

I go to school in a place where plantations once stood, where monuments to confederate leaders and slaveowners stand. The man appointed to lead our colleges and universities made April Confederate History Month in Georgia, and I didn’t have a school board that looked like me until last year. America’s history isn’t perfect because perfection isn’t the point. The point is to learn. 

School is the place for us to learn, to grow, and to thrive. It’s where we equip the youngest Americans to build our future—erasing my people’s history is a threat to that future. Whether we’re talking about oppression two hundred years ago, a Klan rally in the 1980s miles from my house, or the racism we see in our nation to this day, censoring that education is an attack on young Americans like me. 

When these politicians stand up and say they’re fighting for the children by banning history, I know they’re lying. Why? Because when I look around at the children in my community, I see immigrants and Black Americans, I see queer and trans youth, and I see Hispanic and Asian American children. I see white children who want to learn the truth, and I see people of all ages who just want to learn about the world. Nearly two-thirds of all Georgia students are students of color. Which of those children are they pretending to fight for? 

We are America’s future, and we deserve better than political hate targeting our education. We’ll keep fighting for our right to learn until this dream becomes reality.

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