Generating open, honest conversations about racial discrimination is exactly what one historian came to EWU to do.
In honor of February being Black History Month, the Africana Studies Program presented the “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting in the Principal’s Office Together?” speech given by professor Daudi Abe on Feb. 6.
Abe said disproportionality has been an issue for African-Americans and other people of color in academic and authoritative settings.
“I think a lot of times so many white students go through, at least early in life, not really having a grasp on some of these larger racially related issues,” said Abe. “For students of color, this may be something that reminds them or takes them back to experiences that either they have had or that people they know have had.”
During Abe’s presentation, he said for elementary and middle school children of color, back to school means back to the principal’s office. Some students may even experience a loss of academic self-esteem..
Since he was a child, Abe said there hasn’t been a time where everything was all “sun and roses” for the African American community.
“All that the last few years has done is just brought it a little bit back more to the surface,” said Abe.
Abe has recently helped develop an educational program for new teachers called the Academy for Rising Educators. He intends to prepare students for the program, but also lay out the expectation for what students should be after finishing the program.
“For a long time in my work with teachers I have been critical of the teacher preparation process,” Abe said. “Now I have a program that has my fingerprints all over it.” Teachers with unconfronted bias can have negative effects on the students of color.
Shawn Dufrene, a junior and Africana Studies major, is thinking about becoming a teacher and wants to be a part of Abe’s program someday. They said Abe had some really important things to say that needed to be said.
“I want to make sure that when I do teach, if I do teach, that I’ll be doing it the right way. I don’t want to discourage anyone because I’m white.” -Daudi Abe, University of Washington Professor
Abe said he hopes the academy will turn out teachers who have the potential to connect with struggling students or prevent someone from getting shot at a traffic stop five years down the road.
“I feel very proud and humble to be able to have a hand in to hopefully cut into these negative outcomes that still exist for black people in this country,” said Abe.
White people tend to shut down honest conversations before even starting due to the fear of being judged or being called racist, according to Abe.
“Creating spaces where people can have honest conversation, and ask honest questions is a key in trying to help bring out those unconfronted biases,” said Abe.
Abe said he appreciates that the Africana Studies Program has been around for 50 years and has recently been established as a BA program.
“I think legitimizing programs like that help not only the people that they serve, but the academic communities viewing them as something other than legitimate academic programs,” Abe said.