Currently, Burlingame High School students learn about African-American literature in both History and English classes. Despite this, we still face challenges as individuals and as a society in being capable of adopting the perspective of others. In order to progress as a society, we need to move past these challenges, and one way to accomplish this is through literature.
Amidst a time when race issues are so prevalent, being aware of how these issues impact society is just as important than ever. If we spread awareness, we can move away from repeating the discrimination of the past. While adding more books by African-American authors to our curriculum might seem like a small step, it could be the key to understanding diversity of perspective. Often times, the main reason people act with ignorance is because they have not been taught about social awareness or cultures that are different from theirs.
“By adding more novels by black authors to our curriculum, we could benefit by gaining more knowledge on the world from different viewpoints,” sophomore Shannon Zhong said. “Furthermore, we can support a race facing considerable opposition within our society in numerous fields, due to dated stereotypes.”
According to junior Camryn Kenneally, taking this simple action “would bring in more diverse perspectives of the world and society, especially from people who have been marginalized from the rest of society.”
At Burlingame, we read a rather wide array of novels, but it would still be beneficial to add even more novels by black authors, especially ones that are recent in publication. Two pieces we currently read by black authors are the inspiring play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry and the tragic yet powerful Beloved by Toni Morrison. While vastly different in nature, both pieces share a common focus on how historical events including slavery, segregation, and the Civil Rights Movement have shaped other’s opinions of African-Americans. By observing these events, we become more aware of how and why opinions are formed, as well as how and why we need to change this way of thinking.
BHS senior Rebecca Ezersky agrees that reading novels by black authors “would give us more diverse intellectual role models.”
Ultimately, expanding the list of writings by black authors in Burlingame’s curriculum could encourage students to adopt other perspectives, as well as eliminating dated ways of thinking about racial issues.
Here are a few suggestions:
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives by Gary Younge
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter by Kia Corthron
I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge
March: Book Three by John Lewis
Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi