The history taught in schools is propagandistic and white-centric. American kids are raised in a racist and post-colonialist education system. Students come out the classroom believing that, prior to the Enlightenment, people of color (PoC) did not exist in Europe. This is blatantly untrue and a shortsighted view of history.
Often, history is a study in “whiteness,” white people, white view, white history, white influence. According to art historian Jeanne S. M. Willette, art made by PoC was classified as “folk art” or “ethnic art.” Any artist who wasn’t white was qualified by their race.
PoC have a long and complex history. The Moors, medieval Muslims and Arabs coexisted with white Spaniards until their expulsion along with the Jews in 1609.
According to BBC, records show that black men and women have lived in Britain since the 12th century. Their numbers exploded in the 16th century because of the slave trade.
Artists of the era would often position PoC at the edges and corners of canvasses, treating them as ornaments rather than people. Their role in the painting is to reinforce the white supremacist hierarchy, often gazing in wonderment at their masters.
This is reflective of that time period because PoC were, generally speaking, objects. According to the BBC, PoC were offered as gifts to the commanders of slaving vessels and sold into service at auctions. From there, their names and identities were changed, effectively erasing their heritages from public record.
Before the advent of digital editing software, PoC were regularly painted over. This implies that PoC don’t even serve an ornamental function. They are made less than even objects.
It’s been argued, according to The Walters Art Museum, that Giulia de’ Medici featured in Jacopo da Pontormo’s 1539 “Portrait of Maria Salviati de’ Medici and Giulia de’ Medici” was of African ancestry. Reinforcing this, the child was painted over numerous times until she was detected during a cleaning in 1937.
But why whitewash history? Because the system is whitewashed to begin with. After being taught that white people built civilization and mastered the arts, learning that PoC did the same thing invalidates our white supremacist system. It’s hard for anyone to find out they’ve been lied to.
Numerous teachers and professors were educated in the same white supremacist system that a majority of America is. They teach what they were taught and what they have learned and they have curricula to stick to and administrators to please.
There are plenty of good professors and teachers out there, but being taught that there’s nothing south of North Africa is inexcusable. Seek out this history for yourself; white men aren’t the only influential figures in world history.