Over the course of a few days, Olga Briceño called her peers and asked them, “Do you think a Black history course should be incorporated into the core curriculum?”
“I wanted to know why people thought the way they did because everyone responded so differently than I expected,” said Briceño, an international relations and global studies sophomore.
Madeleine Olson, a teaching assistant for the Black Power Movement course, said students in the class had to interview 10 UT students about incorporating a Black history or Black Power course into the core curriculum.
“Seeing the different range in opinions (from those surveyed) just reinforces the complexity of the issue,” said Olson, a white graduate student.
Briceño said she was surprised by the distribution of her results because she expected all 10 interviewees to respond “yes.” The responses, however, were split evenly between “yes” and “no.”
Three students who responded with “no” had inclusivity concerns about the requirement, said Briceño, who is Venezuelan.
Briceno said other students made comments like “If we require Black history, then why are we not requiring a history course for other marginalized communities like Latinx or the Deaf community?”
Two students said “no” because of logistical concerns about adding more coursework to the 42-hour core curriculum. They argued that another history course wouldn’t be necessary for most majors and it would cost more money.
Based on the responses, Briceño proposed scrapping the current two semester U.S. history requirement, which most students learn in K-12, and replacing it with a two-semester history requirement on marginalized communities.
Briceño and Aayana Ragland, a Black Power Movement student, said courses about marginalized groups should be taught by professors who belong to those communities.
“I wouldn’t want a white man teaching me about Black history, you know?” Briceño said.
Aayana Ragland, a sociology sophomore who is Black, said she expected most students to respond “no.”
“The makeup of UT is mostly white, so coming from that privileged stance I don’t think people would understand why this type of course would be necessary,” Ragland said.
Ragland said it is important to learn about Black history because it’s American history.
“I don’t want to say white people didn’t do anything for their country because they did, but it’s important to learn other ethnicities built (America) too,” Ragland said. “It wasn’t just white people.”
Government sophomore Valerie Clemente is also in the Black Power Movement course and posted a link to the survey on her public Instagram story. She said she was shocked by the explanations from those who responded “no.”
“I expected all the positive results, but I got some really negative (results), to say the least,” said Clemente, who is Latina. “There is somebody who said this shouldn’t be a mandatory class because white people went through slavery too, referring to indentured servitude, and if there’s no white history, then why should we have Black history.”
Briceño, Clemente and Ragland said the assignment changed their perspectives on their peers and their reasoning for agreeing or disagreeing with adding a Black history course.
“If you don’t know history, it’s going to repeat itself,” Ragland said. “Lots of people don’t know modern implications of the past, so issues like systematic racism keep existing. Having people learn about these histories will help people become culturally aware to dismantle these systems.”