There is no questioning the lack of Native American history that is taught in schools. My unit focuses on AP U.S. History scholars, who are juniors and seniors. I want the students to examine their own cultural and racial biases, and how a colorblind ideology has impaired our educational system and promoted a white colonial settler account of American history.
Across the country, educators and politicians are pushing to challenge the assumptions of settler colonial history and incorporate the Native American history and studies into curricula. In California, former Governor Jerry Brown signed two laws in 2017, AB 738 and AB 2016, promoting Native California history. The State Board of Education must also adopt ethnic studies by March 2020. In Montana, the state pledged to sponsor the distinctive cultural legacy of Native Americans in 1972 and the Indian Education for All Act was finally implemented with financial support in 2005. Unfortunately, Native American history, politics and culture is still largely disregarded by many schools across the nation. In my home state, there is very little in the K-12 standards or curriculum in which focuses on Native American history.
As a life-long educator, I hope to expand the students’ knowledge of the intersection of race, colonial settler narrative and legitimized racism in United States history.
Throughout our YNHTI seminar on colorblindness, we have studied the dramatic effect that colorblindness has had on Americans’ perspective and scholarship. Since the 1970s, scholars and teachers from the across the political spectrum, have centered on a paradigm of racial colorblindness—the contention that we should ignore race in all disciplines and teach without any focus or discussion of race, racism or colonialism to our students.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) addresses the fallacy of colorblindness in education. Teachers and academics must address the role of race and racism in the structure of U.S. Society. There is no question that by ignoring the tremendous culture and history of Native Americans that educators are often complicit in the colorblindness paradigm.
In “Rethinking Pedagogy to Re-center Race: Some Reflections,” Caitlin L. Ryan and Adrienne D. Dixson illustrate the importance of CRT in the classroom.
“The particular lens of CRT, however, makes the systemic cultural and racial patterns that operate in schools more visible…Dominant discourse in both legal scholarship and educational institutions frequently seek colorblindness as an ideal. CRT points out that an appeal to a colorblind perspective is a particular political choice that ignores historical and social contexts where race has and continues to matter.”ii
According to Dwanna L. McKay, indigenous populations experience legitimized racism and it is often ignored by white Americans, who do not even recognize their racial bias. Legitimized racism is defined as Western Civilization’s depiction of Indigenous people without any deep cultural knowledge or input from the people in order to gain power. McKay states that legitimized racism “transforms overt racism into so-called benevolent acts of tradition and honor.”iii The cultural portraits are accepted as true because racial power degrades tribes into stereotypes and hideous caricatures.
In “Shifting Frames” by Milton Reynolds in Seeing Race Again, the teacher-educator examines curricula across the country that hide the inhumane atrocities committed in U.S. History by the federal government and a race-based political system and culture as well as the colorblind educational complex that hides the truth from students. Reynolds probes “conceptual impoverishment”iv and the negative impact it has on all Americans. It begins with teachers who did not learn U.S. history in-depth and embrace colorblindness as an ideology in their classrooms. The inability of far too many educators to confront their own biases and promote an inaccurate narrative of American history hurts all students. “In essence, colorblind knowledge fosters ignorance by intentionally abstracting historical events from the systems and structures of power and subjugation that produces these outcomes,” states Reynolds.v