Fringe groups like the Working Families Party, Make NY True Blue and Indivisible feel intellectually superior to everyone. In this self-appointed, all-knowing role, these individuals believe they determine who is a Democrat and who is not, and define who is black enough and what it means to be a public servant in communities of color.
With this disconnected view, activists shamefully slammed my effort to pass the Black History Education bill during Black History Month.
This hallmark piece of legislation, co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Diana Richardson, a fellow Brooklyn Democrat, would weave into everyday lessons the major achievements of African-Americans, the woman’s abolitionist movement, the Harlem Renaissance, the Buffalo antislavery movement and the suffrage of African-American Long Islanders.
We must build an education system that embraces the inescapable truth that tomorrow’s America will be even more diverse, will call for even more understanding, and will require us to be better versed in the American stories of our African-American, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino and African diaspora brothers and sisters.
Our bill would establish a 13-member commission that includes representatives from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, the Board of Regents chancellor’s office and the city and state education departments to develop a strong statewide Black History curriculum.
This inclusive approach brings all stakeholders together to create an educational program that could be permanently implemented. As a result, prominent black legislators throughout the city and state, black churches and advocacy organizations – and even Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network – support the Black History Education bill.
With my ability to reach across the aisle, I passed this legislation in the New York state Senate last year and will do it again this year. Make no mistake, legislation for Black History education and all issues of consequence to the diverse people in my district would never get passed, were it not for getting support across the aisle. It is a fact. The votes would simply not be there otherwise.
Instead of being celebrated for gaining support and finally reaching this important milestone, I have received racially charged letters and calls from Alliance for Quality Education and Working Families Party allies referring to the curriculum as “fake black history,” calling me by disparaging names and smearing my character. On Sunday, these fringe groups will stand together to protest this legislation for not going far enough, and me, for doing my job, and delivering for the people in my district and in my community.
As a black man, and a Democrat, who has dedicated his life to public service and advancing the history and needs of my brothers and sisters, it is despicable that AQE and leaders of the Working Families Party have viciously attacked me and have questioned my authenticity on both counts.
We live in a polarizing time, with people who are so invested in their ideology they would rather accomplish nothing than work with anyone who doesn’t look or believe exactly as they do. Nevertheless, racism cloaked in intellectual and moral superiority is still racism.
This bill is a step in the right direction and we invite people to come to the table and join us in getting real results.