History is always written by the winners. The history of America we learn in school depicts our forefathers as a plucky bunch of earnest, God-fearing folk who just wanted a place to live and worship in freedom and peace. Sure, along the way mistakes were made. We did some bad things, told a few lies and some people got hurt, but all in the name of progress. And look how blessed we all are today compared to the rest of the world.
Democracy is messy. Greed is good.
What happened happened. Get over it.
Do NOT traumatize my children in our schools with those ugly lies. Let’s start with 1776, not 1619.
Don’t you DARE make me feel bad and don’t you hate on me for what your ancestors may or may not have gone through.
After human brains evolved to the extent that our species, small and cunning as we were, was able to emerge from hiding and slowly but systematically dominate, subdue, or exterminate every other living species on this planet. We domesticated fire, then after a long day of hunting and gathering, we sat around that fire and told stories. Those stories of shared experience and history helped band tribes together, shaping cultures and reinforcing shared beliefs and aspirations.
As the unchecked human population thrived and went viral, the biggest threat to tribes of humans became other human tribes. Tribes with the strongest cultural bonds, often through shared religion or ideology, multiplied more virulently, often at the expense of their neighbors. More advanced human tribes would systematically enslave weaker tribes to build their great ancient cities.
Anxious to expand, French, British, and Spanish expeditions would ultimately divide up most of Asia, North Africa, and the Americas. Spaniards brutally crushed the South American Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans. The French and English set foot in North America and drove out the American indigenous Indian population.
The overwhelming task of developing the North American wilderness motivated a robust slave trade in the new land. Marginalized Europeans were lured over and indentured to work essentially as slaves in a variety of domestic capacities. But most notably, it was the African population that was systematically poached from their homeland and herded in chains by the boat load, brutalized, raped, tortured, and stripped of their humanity, all to build the land we call home today. In modern times, one would have to look to the Holocaust to find a reasonable point of comparison to how this country has treated African-Americans over a shame-filled 400-year history.
As a privileged white male in this country, I am not entitled to speak for or about the African-American experience. I cannot change the past, and I certainly cannot credibly stand out in front of any marginalized segment of our society and speak to what they’ve experienced.
If we love our country, we must know our true selves. If you’ve ever read a biography of a beloved historical figure, there is always a dark side, one that often reveals terrible, seemingly unforgivable sin. I think our tribe (our country) is a lot like that. Understanding our sins is the only way to hope to begin to appreciate the African-American experience in it and the only way we can truly move forward.
As another Black History month draws to a close, I challenge everyone to spend some time reading any number of important fiction and non-fiction works by renowned Black American writers and scholars, past and present: Angela Davis, Colson Whitehead, Maya Angelou, Alex Haley, Ibram X. Kendi, Octavia Butler, so many others. Share what you feel from their personal testimonies and meticulous research with your family and friends.
Know the true story, and tell THAT story to your tribe. Help our society finally turn the page.