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Alvin Jackson: Saying ‘America is racist’ teaches Black children the wrong lesson

Focusing on the principles of unity and belonging is what needs to take place, as opposed to labeling one group as the ‘oppressor’ and the other group as the ‘oppressed’

SHARE Alvin Jackson: Saying ‘America is racist’ teaches Black children the wrong lesson

Former Utah state Sen. Alvin Jackson discusses a bill Friday, March 6, 2015.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

As a Black man, I’m grateful to live in America, which was built upon the promise for all Americans — that if you work hard, educate yourself and have faith in God, you will find success. Those were the hallmarks of the Black community from emancipation until the 1960s. It was in the ’60s when the war on poverty began. Millions of Black Americans were then encouraged to get on welfare, thereby removing the father from the home.

We just finished my favorite month of the year, Black History Month. I dedicated my self-study to those Black Americans before me who made a difference in the world. Because of their sacrifice, I’m blessed to live in a country created on the promise of opportunity for everyone, regardless of your circumstances. 

Reading about their struggles and overcoming the obstacles of racism and discrimination that was actually written into the code inspires me to focus on the victories that are possible, as opposed to the injuries to be avoided. In just 50 years after Emancipation, the Black family produced over $700 million in assets; opened 40,000 businesses; educated their children in schools they built; created 40,000 churches; and the marriage rate was 85%.  

Unfortunately, there are some that continue to promote the false narrative that America is an inherently racist nation, which is a notion that should be soundly rejected. This vocal minority now wants this false narrative to be promoted in our nation’s schools, thereby labeling one group as the “oppressor” and the other group as the “oppressed.” This, in itself, is racist, as it assumes one race is superior to another. 

In the Black history I’ve studied, the Black family, with both a mother and father in the home, taught their children to work hard,; get an education and have faith in God. The children were told the door is locked from the inside, thereby highlighting that they are in charge of their own destiny. Making another race feel as though they can’t be successful unless one race changes their behavior is wrong. 

Just as we inspire our Black athletes to achieve on the football field or basketball court, we should expect the same excellence in the classroom. To promote the divisive narrative that America is just as awful as it was during the time of Jim Crow is to dishonor the personal sacrifices of those before us. We stand on their shoulders to enjoy an America that has opportunity for everyone regardless of their own individual circumstances. 

I invite us to inspire all of our children to pursue excellence, as opposed to lessening standards that are perceived as too high a bar to be achieved by children of color.  

Aspiring to live the principles of diversity, unity and belonging is worthy of our collective efforts in the classroom, business and home. I personally invite our classrooms to renew its efforts to create an environment of psychological safety, which is conducive to quality learning for all children: Black, white, gay, lesbian, etc. Equity is fairness, not sameness. Working toward providing an opportunity for everyone promotes unity and belonging. 

There is a better way.

Alvin Jackson is a former Utah state Senator. He is a senior partner at Sunlight Works, a firm dedicated to helping their clients achieve the aspirational principles of diversity, unity and belonging.