Black and Brown students should not learn about themselves and their histories only in terms of oppression, as ancillary laborers in colonial tales, or as afterthoughts or tokens. These students should not first learn globalized human stories in college. Education leaders in one northeast state are seeking to address this issue, recently agreeing on a new mandate for middle school students to take a class addressing identity and experience before they graduate high school.

The Bridgeport, Connecticut city board unanimously decided that the class of 2022 must take African American Studies, Caribbean/Latin American Studies or Perspectives on Race and a half-year civics course before the students’ diplomas are conferred, the Connecticut Post reported. “It is going to make a great deal of difference to our children and our families,” Sauda Baraka, vice chairman of the school board, said. “It will really help us with the learning process. Cultural competency has been shown to change the direction of young people and make them more interested in learning.”

Dennis Bradley, a board member, also spoke highly of the requirement. He said history tends to be taught from a Eurocentric vantage point, with African American people mainly discussed in terms of enslavement or civil rights.

The Bridgeport board recognized that their student body, composed of about one-third African American students and half Latino students, will benefit from more inclusive lessons.  The mandate will likely help students in a journey to contextualize their lived experiences, which reflect the creation of racial and/or ethnic orders and how these classifications sustain the climate students all over America currently experience.

The board—representing Connecticut’s most populated city—will reportedly pursue Fairfield University’s support, along with other institutions, and grant funding to finance the change. Related costs related could exceed $180,000.

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