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“This is Our History Too” – A Q&A With US African American History Course Participant, Michael Foget

Michael Foget, a fellow student of the African American History Course, echoed Professor Christy Clark-Pujara: racism is embedded in the DNA of our country and there is a long road to extracting it. Foget, a White parent with two Black sons, ages 8 and 10 years old in the Madison Metropolitan School District, says his main focus is on family and community engagement in our schools. He wants to take the information he learns during these nine weeks and bring it to the school to build trust and community. This is an edited Q & A with Foget about why he is taking this class.

Why are you taking the Black history course?

In the conversations at African American Parent Leadership Council Meetings [a council at MMSD of parents/guardians with African American children], one night in the discussion somebody got up and said “One of the major obstacles to this is that White people don’t understand what is like to be African American. They don’t know us, our lives, our history. And frankly, it is not our job to educate them.” I was like “Oh — okay.” Who raises that awareness and provides an opportunity for people to be educated — enter Justified Anger.

From what I understand of what we are doing here is to fill in that void and help people who don’t understand the history and don’t understand how we got to where we are today. And fill that void for people who maybe aren’t equipped to reach out and say ” I didn’t know — shame on me. I’m here now and I’m at the table and how can I help. What can I do to continue to raise that awareness?”

Why do you think it is important for White people to learn about Black history?

I’m assuming that the messages we are learning here [at the Black history course] are endorsed by the Black community. That there is a common agreement that this makes sense and that this is helpful for other people, in addition to course attendees,  to learn about. It creates a common base where we can come together and talk. So much of our day to day lives is emotional, political, pointing figures, accusations, labels and it is nice to step away from that and say “this is amazing, this is certainly Black history but this is my history too. My ancestors were there too.” We didn’t make the best choices but we were part of it.

If it has been said once it’s been said a half dozen times in our JA discussion groups — these concepts we learn in this course were never discussed in our history classes. I’m a product of the 1970s and certainly, none of our history teachers talked to this. Why is that?

How do you think you’ll use this information outside of this course?

As a school, we tried to find ways to engage [people of color in the Crestwood Elementary Association of Parents and Teachers, meetings]. A number of the families of the children at Crestwood come from the Allied neighborhood, so we took our meetings over there a few times but still didn’t see participation So it is not just a location thing, there is something else there and how do we break through that.

What I’m learning here — does it help any of that? I don’t know yet but.. that is what I’m thinking about.

This article was authored and edited by Mackenzie Krumme with interview participation by Michael Foget.