Often regarded as one of life’s few certainties, death is both instantly familiar to us and deeply mysterious. Every adult will have encountered death in some form, sometimes through the loss of a family member, sometimes less directly via friendships with others or the viewing of news items on television or the Internet. Yet, few take the time to examine death closely and to consider its significance in shaping human lives. Death is of interest both for what we know about it (in observing and living with others who die) and for what we do not know about it (“What will happen to me after I die?”). Death seems, on the face of it, to lend itself well to both philosophical and educational inquiry. For, if, as Socrates claimed, philosophy prepares us for death, this suggests an educational process (“How does it prepare us?”) that warrants careful investigation. It is, however, not just philosophy that prepares us for death but also death that prepares us for philosophy. Our understanding of death can exert a powerful but often unnoticed influence over our ontological and epistemological views, our ethical commitments, and our educational endeavors. Death can prompt us to ask: What does it mean to be a human being? What do we value and why? What and how should we seek to know? How should we live?
Afro-pessimism is a lens that meditates heavily on the endless consequences the Black body experiences via its position as a nonbeing and slave—a position opposite of Humanity. The marker of Human is reserved for non-Blacks. Modernity is that which has birthed this hierarchy, this structure of the world, and this division of bodies. The slave and the Black are synonymous ontological markers that leave the Black body as an ever-vulnerable creature experiencing endless violence. The slave is a socially dead nonbeing. This reality creates conundrums for enacting methods of redress. And the violence that saturates the realm in which the slave resides is not that which is analogous to the oppression narratives impacting non-Black people of color. Many of the scholars of U.S. curriculum, and generations of scholars within and around the field of curriculum studies, have long sought to utilize U.S. curriculum to address social ills and to thwart any regimes aimed at hindering the nation’s imaginary thrust toward democratic ideals. From the onset, curriculum has been a battleground atop which ideological interests have guided its direction and shaped its composition. Curriculum has long been a social and cultural arcade of democratic deliberation and a site in which one meditates on Humanism’s ideals. In the 1970s, the field of curriculum studies was specifically marked by a reconceptualization that would institute a method for addressing the psychic and social ills plaguing U.S. society (with confident applicability abroad). The method, called currere, was engineered to awaken and deepen one’s engagement with oneself and to reinforce one’s connectivity with the inhabitants of one’s society and world. This includes a rescuing of the individual psyche from depersonalization and derealization—with the end being: An integrated self. This integrated self is then recast into the world with an awakened agency and an enlarged empathic register laced with moral and ethical commitments. This integrated self would be charged with engaging in transformative action within the larger society—aimed at salvaging the tears in the nation’s social fabric by building toward the tenets of democratic idealism. This method is believed to be universally applicable as it is designed to aid and transform the experiences of those who exist at all rungs of the social hierarchy. This method, and its evolved forms, is ultimately designed to challenge hegemonic interests. Afro-pessimism asserts that curriculum’s very composition simultaneously forgets and exploits the Black. Afro-pessimism asserts that curriculum’s antihegemonic weaponry and psychoanalytic instruments cannot spoil the plight of those who are beyond and outside of hegemony’s Human intervals and whose psyches are endlessly disrupted by an invasive Whiteness. Afro-pessimism asserts that the liberative mission of curriculum/currere/the field of curriculum studies is a Humanism that is designed for all who are not Black and perpetuates anti-Black violence.