Guilty Innocence

During class this past week, there was a discussion about the subtle ways racism has been integrated into our society. One way is through the nursery rhyme “Eeny Meeny Miny Moe”. It was a shock to learn that the verse “catcha tiger by it’s toe” was really written as “catch a nigger by it’s toe”. I remember singing this rhyme as a kid while picking who was going to be it in tag. It’s crazy to me that innocent children are taught things like this that seem innocent, but at its roots are not. Changing a word in the song does not change the spirit of the song. It makes me wonder what other things look innocent in our society, but really has a hidden meaning or origin. 

The first thing that came to mind for me was the school system in America. The majority of the great people we learn about in American history are white males. We learn about the great inventions created by white individuals, and the great impacts white men have had on society. However, the lack of black leaders, inventions, and impacts by African Americans shown in curriculum is not an accident. It is a strategy. In “A Talk to Teachers”, Baldwin writes, “…he is also assured by his country and his countrymen that he has never contributed anything to civilization” (679). The lack of teaching done on black excellence results in black youth assuming that they never have and never will do anything great. This is stunting their determination to change their society at a young age.

The way slavery is taught also causes problems. Baldwin states, “ He is assured by the republic that… his ancestors were happy, shiftless, watermelon- eating darkies who loved Mr. Charlie” (679). Slavery is taught in a watered down way that prevents the herendous truth of slavery from being told. Students, black and white, can easily walk away not realizing how terrible it was. In addition, there were many revolts that took place, however the educational system does not teach that. They do not want black youth to know that their ancestors were strong and fought back because then black youth will know that they are strong and can fight back. It seems innocent that the educational system is teaching slavery to students, and don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that we learn these things. However, the way they teach it secretly has another agenda. 

Teaching majority white history may seem innocent on the surface, but there are darker tactics at work. It may seem innocent to “forget” about the black excellence in history or tell the full horror of slavery, but it is not. There are hidden origins to these tactics, and I am sure there are many other examples of false innocence in our society.