It Starts with Education…
And Ends with Reform.

This essay is critical for all Americans to grasp. It addresses the past, the present, and what the future holds. Additionally, I love teaching, and this article is my attempt to make my point by leaving America for a moment. We are now in Africa, on November 10, 1871. Henry Stanley finally found David Livingstone and uttered, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

”Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

Livingstone was from Scotland but went to Africa for many reasons. To his credit, he was an abolitionist who spoke out against the European involvement in the African slave trade. He is also famous for discovering Zambezi Falls. The locals called the waterfalls “Smoke That Thunders.” He renamed it Victoria Falls in honor of Queen Victoria.

Livingstone spent his life in Africa. However, no one had heard anything from him for some time and assumed that he had died. That motivated Stanley to go in search of Livingstone. On this day, a century and a half ago, Stanley found Livingstone and said, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Since Livingstone was ill, Stanley took Livingston to a village where he got medical attention. However, less than two years later, he died.

Livingstone has gone down in history books as a medical missionary, explorer, adventurer, and abolitionist. Interestingly, he is also known for what he called the 3-Cs: Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization. A hundred and fifty years ago, they were considered noble reasons for going to Africa.

Today, the 3-Cs aren’t seen as particularly virtuous. Christian missionaries went to evangelize the Africans, which makes a hubristic assumption. Christianity was the true religion and obviously better than their various religions. As for the commerce issue, hubris motivated that mindset also. Europeans wanted to make more money by taking resources from developing countries. That enriched both the European countries along with the individuals involved in commerce. However, the final C was to bring civilization to the uncivilized locals. That is racism. Whites put down other people who didn’t act like they did. That is blatant racism. If Africans didn’t act like Europeans, they were deemed less than whites.

Livingstone wasn’t the only Christian medical missionary looking down upon Africans. Albert Schweitzer went to Africa with the desire to help the people in that continent. However, his mindset was based upon what is called today systematic racism. “The African is my brother but he is my younger brother by several centuries.”

George Santayana warned the world, “ Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” For Santayana, education is the necessary beginning point. One must grasp the historical narrative. Without education, people will replicate mistakes that they had made before.

Whites are either overt racists, or they reflect inadvertently systematic racism. Regardless, racism needs to be addressed.

Derrick Bell

Dr. Derrick Bell, a leader of the critical race theory (CRT), said, “Education leads to enlightenment. Enlightenment opens the way to empathy. Empathy foreshadows reform.” Bell taught at Harvard. One of his students, who was black, was the editor of the Harvard Law Review. That was three decades ago.

A dozen years ago, Bell’s former black student was campaigning to become the president of the United States. During a campaign speech, I took the following photograph at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Gary, IN.

Interestingly, above the picture of Bell’s student, there is an invitation to attend that student’s inauguration as president of the United States.

I took another photo, which is directly under Bell’s former student. It is of Leonidas, who was the king of Sparta. Under Leonidas’ leadership, the Greeks stood their ground against Xerxes, the king of Persia. The Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BCE delayed the Persian invasion long enough for the Greek navy to defeat Xerxes at the Battle of Salamis. Those two battles protected the basis of Western thought. Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote in the preface of Hellas, “We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts have their root in Greece.”

Each of us needs mentors in our journey down the yellow brick road of life. The editor of the Harvard Law Review had many mentors, but two of them were Dr. Bell and Leonidas.


These two videos are interviews of Derrick Bell.