Dismantling Racial Hierarchies, Ending Miseducation

Today's guest author is Dr. Rev. PM Crowley Hillstrom.

"I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists."

Governor Mark Dayton offered these words the day after Philando Castile, a 32-year-old Black male and school cafeteria manager, was killed. Hennepin County Medical examiner's official press report stated Castile's manner of death was "homicide" from multiple gunshot wounds.

At the end of Governor Dayton's remarks he says, "Justice will be served in Minnesota!" This statement came on the heels of demands from those attending a Black Lives Matter rally requesting the governor to "effect change."

As a person of both Indigenous and European descent, my soul became overwhelmed with grief and fear based upon my own encounters, both positive and negative, with law enforcement. To help process the recent events, I turned to hear what President Barack Obama had to offer. I heard "that all of us as Americans should be troubled by these shootings because these are not isolated incidents." Regrettably, this truth did not calm my fears or remove my grief, but it did inspire me to write.

As my heart and head processed the President's words, I heard the words "justice will be served in Minnesota," echoing over and over again. True justice will never occur in this country until we transform the current normative set of values and beliefs that determine access and opportunities for people. I truly hope that the persons involved, not only here in Minnesota, but Baton Rouge, Dallas - and what seems to be countless other communities in our country - will be investigated and "justice" will be served. However for justice to be realized we must address the root of the problem: systemic racism.

As an educational leader committed to systemic transformation, I am compelled to interrupt the forces at play, which are not only producing the current racial climate, but mimicking such climates found throughout history.

I know education plays a key role in how people of different races live today. Both personally and professionally, I am committed now more than ever to help change the miseducation of dominant culture. Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1933 wrote a book titled The Miseducation of the Negro. In this book Woodson said, "The worst kind of lynching" is to teach a student that their Blackness is a curse.

This fixed and errant mindset, taught through a Eurocentric education system, provides the very foundation that society has used to paralyze people of color and Indigenous folks, leading to the creation of the current grievous situation of our current judicial systems.

This miseducation is prevalent throughout history and today as society continues to inadequately value the lives of people of color and Indigenous people. . Yes all lives matter, but all lives can't matter until we value Black lives.

If we are ever to realize a time in our history where justice is more than an eye for an eye- -- that will eventually leave us all blind -- we must create systemic transformational change. We must end our current miseducation, which is founded on a belief of racial hierarchy.

Arrogance and ignorance about race must be addressed, and education is the key.
We must have the courage to change what is being taught and draw upon the depth of knowledge that surpasses one dominant culture /race and connect with the deeper knowledge of humanity.

Much of today's emphasis on education systems focuses exclusively on values and beliefs that determine access and opportunities. Groups like the Committee of Ten and the Cardinal Principles helped establish our educational system through these limited values and perspectives. Most of the values and beliefs that drive today's education have been determined by what dominant cultures determine is of most worth. Race, ethnicity, gender, religion and language diversity are just a few of the critical components that have not been addressed effectively in the past and must be part of the educational redesign if we are to meet the ever-changing needs of each child and bring forth justice.

The truth is that this country has been built on the backs of dead Indians and Black slaves and has yet to recognize the contribution of Asian immigrants, while today perpetuating the miseducation by exploiting a neo- classic slave force of Latinos.

The fact that this truth remains untold or denied must become unacceptable in the United States. This miseducation of U.S. history and values must stop if justice will ever come forth from the shadows. Accurate education must establish the premise that cultures and races other than the dominant are full and complete and are not something flawed or of lesser value than dominant culture or race.

Several states have passed legislation to address student performance. Goals often include school readiness, grade level reading, high school graduation and college readiness. All of these goals are focused around closing racial and economic achievement gaps.

Nevertheless, there still is an underlying belief that these elements are what are needed to create a healthy society. Unfortunately, this list stops drastically short at addressing the overwhelming needs for our society to become racially literate. In our diverse world the concept of racial literacy must be on the list of critical learning that is needed to create the world's best workforce.

Paulo Friere said it best: "Through proper education individuals transform themselves as learners, which provide themselves with the necessary tools to bring about radical structural changes that support a democratic lifestyle and equitable solutions."

Eric J. Cooper is the founder and president of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, a nonprofit professional development organization that provides student-focused professional development, advocacy and organizational guidance to accelerate student achievement. He can be reached at e_cooper@nuatc.org. He tweets as @ECooper4556.

Dr. Rev. PM Crowley Hillstrom is director of educational equity for ISD 279 - Osseo Area Schools. Email Dr. Hillstrom at