Written by Dwight Bachman
On April 24, anthropologist Hilda Lloréns, 96’, presented “Arrancando Mitos de Raíz: Guía para una Enseñanza Antirracista” en Puerto Rico (Pulling-up Myths from their Roots: A Guide for the Anti-Racist Teaching of Puerto Rico’s African Heritage), published in 2013. The book’s presentation, which was sponsored by the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work and the Intercultural Center, detailed the findings of the research project, “Beyond the Self: Towards an Integral Approach to an Anti-racist Pedagogy in Elementary Education.”
This research project was funded by the National Institutes of Health and spearheaded by Isar Godreau from the Institute of Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Puerto Rico-Cayey. The project sought to explore: 1) whether institutional racism was embedded in school curricula; and 2) whether black children were exposed to racism and discrimination in school.
The research team found that at the institutional level, in curricular materials and lessons, students were taught five recurrent and specific myths about Africa, the African heritage, and blackness in Puerto Rico. These five myths are: 1) Africa is a poor, primitive place of little importance in the world; 2) slaves were passive victims of slavery; 3) all black persons in Puerto Rico were slaves prior the abolition of slavery; 4) the contributions of African heritage are limited to music, folklore and hard labor; 5) in Puerto Rico, the majority of black persons disappeared as a result of race mixing or “mestizaje.” At the interpersonal level, racial discrimination among students included rejection, humiliation, mockery, and even physical abuse of black children. Consequently, the research team found that students who are victims of racism experience emotional instability, anxiety, and isolation. Students often begin to experience racism in elementary school and continue to encounter racism throughout the entirety of their schooling experience.
During the presentation, Lloréns explained the findings of the research, as well as the contents of “Pulling-up Myths by the Root.” The book offers a practical guide for teachers, social workers, education students, and the community at large to understand the effects of racism and suggest ways in which they can begin to effect anti-racist change both at the institutional and interpersonal levels. Lloréns donated a copy of the book to the J. Eugene Smith Library.