Almost everyone in 21st-century America affirms the importance of education. Although there are issues and controversies regarding best practices in this discipline, no one aims to be a champion of ignorance. Even truth and accuracy are not settled matters, for today they are used as fodder for partisan politics—especially those fueled by cultural conspiracies. The particular conspiracy of concern ever on the rise is racism, a scourge buried deep in the psyche of many Americans exacerbated when socialized motives mingle with political opportunity.
This cultural conspiracy is a manifestation of a symptom of heightened fear due to perceived danger, but the bottom line is this ulcer is activated by sin in the heart and life of its proponents. Exodus 1:8-13 says: “Then a new king, or Pharoah, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them, or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us, and leave the country.’ So, they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so, the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly.”
As in Egypt then, cultural conspiracies today are often perpetuated by powerful people motivated by racialized biases who see the world in a violent, politically charged way.
Born in 1875, Carter Godwin Woodson was the son of freed slaves and a strong supporter of education, particularly for African Americans. He achieved four degrees—a Bachelor of Arts, two Master’s and became the second African American to earn a Ph.D., after W.E. DuBois. He is recognized as the father of African American History and what is annually celebrated as Black History Month. Woodson was motivated by a lifelong concern that there was an ever-increasing cultural conspiracy in American education where white-dominated writers of history textbooks and the teachers who used them, were deliberately overlooking, ignoring, and suppressing neglected aspects of African American history.
So disturbed was he about this, that in 1826 he endeavored to break through such destructive mind control by declaring the second week of February, Negro History Week. Woodson endeavored to educate all Americans—white and black—to recognize the overlooked achievements of African Americans. Sixty years later in 1986, what Woodson started as an annual week-long celebration of African American history each February was designated by Congress as National Black (Afro-American) History Month.
Though we’ve come a long way, we still have a long way to go. For there remain many barriers and walls built by systemic injustice and racism in our society. As Amos 5:21-23 declares, “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” To accomplish such a noble social agenda, we must preach and teach to each generation till Christ comes to take us home.
In the Bible, God has laid out spiritual laws that preserve the dignity of all human beings and we must be persistent in practicing them so the next generation can learn. This, added to rigorous academic education will increase awareness and positively change the world for Christ’s sake.
Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.