When she heard her teacher say the words, “We don’t talk about that in this classroom,” 10-year-old Iris Haq Lukolyo of Pearland, Texas, knew something was wrong.
Iris’ class was told their next history unit would be about the U.S. Founding Fathers. When Iris asked about the enslaved who were physically forced into serving as the labor that provided those Founding Fathers their power and wealth, that’s when she heard the fateful words above.
The enslaved did not exist, only slave owners, in that classroom’s conception of the Founding Fathers.
Glenn York Elementary’s principal told The Lily that Iris’ account was “definitely not entirely correct,” without any other details.
The Lily has more from Iris:
As the only Black student in the class, Iris was crushed by the interaction and turned her camera off to cry, she said.
Before she spoke up, she had been “definitely scared” to do so, she said. And “after [the teacher] shot me down, I felt even worse — I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I shouldn’t have said that.’”
But Lily didn’t let this stop her from seeking out the education she deserves—and demanding it for all other kids—so she penned an essay about the experience for Skipping Stones, a literary magazine for students.
“All the history they teach us is whitewashed and when it comes to Black history, they do not talk about anything other than Rosa Parks, MLK, and Harriet Tubman,” Iris wrote. “Like, why don’t you tell us about the messed up history of blackface, segregation, and cultural appropriation? Why don’t you teach us about the Black Lives Matter movement? Then y’all want to go into full detail about how many lives were lost in the Civil War but not how many lives of Black people were lost due to groups like the KKK and due to police brutality and hatred toward African Americans.”
Iris’ teacher later apologized to her and her family.
Teachers, if you’re looking to celebrate women who lead in your classrooms during Women’s History Month, Iris Haq Lukolyo’s story is a great place to start.