At Kean University, Martin Luther King Day was marked with a panel discussion about the importance of teaching African-American history in schools, and how education is the best way to fight racism.
One of the panelists was Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who talked about how racial injustice led to the events of January 6. “The most secure building in the world was invaded, and if you look at the people who invaded it, you start to wonder, how did somebody dressed up as Chewbacca with a Viking hat get into the Senate,” he asked, as the remark drew some laughter.
Baraka, a former history teacher, also talked about the lies and conspiracy theories that inflamed the insurrection, and said they must be discredited. “I know sometimes we like to go around it and under it, we like to say it nice or package it in a way that we think will be palatable for people,” he said, “but at the end of the day I think we should be as direct with exposing lies as people are about telling them.”
And he said society must recognize the role racism played in the events at the Capitol. “I think many of us choose not to look at it clearly in its face to see that there were some 70 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump,” he said, “and hundreds of thousands of them who were prepared to do what happened at the Capitol.”
Baraka said education must play a key role in combatting racism, but pointed out too that the wrong kind of education can inflame hatred and division, saying that no one during the time of the Third Reich was born a Nazi.