In light of the recent events regarding the Confederate statues (totally just used “recent” and “Confederate” in the same phrase), I thought it would be a great time to talk about history. It seems that a lot of folks are super eager to preserve American history and ensure our people know all that there is to know about our country through the great tradition of visiting statues of dead dudes that killed for their right to own slaves.
I grew up in a rural, white town. We had, if my memory serves me correctly, one black kid in our high school and he was on probation for something (probably for being the only black kid) and he wore an ankle monitor. This is not important to the history thing, but it gives you a peek at the type of town that I am from which is like all other towns everywhere in every other state. Our schools, like every other in places like these, had mandatory history courses and the textbooks for those classes were written by whoever wanted to write them. This leads to some obvious problems. The entirety of my school’s black American history education can be summarized with, “there were slaves, then there were civil rights, and now everything is cool.” Our school books made President Lincoln to be some hero that he was not, painted the north to be filled with white saviors when it wasn’t, and pushed the narrative that JFK was a huge civil rights champion when it is more likely that federal support was sent to the south only to appear like the U.S. government cared about their black citizens.
There are many articles that you can find about public school textbooks being less than honest. Here is one about Texas’ books lying about the cause of the Civil War. This is one about the false stories fed to kids about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And here is an article breaking down the problem with our history books and teachers while citing examples of books that state lies like, “The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.” (seriously, WTF!)
I did not learn about Ida B. Wells or read any of her investigative pieces on white women getting their black lovers lynched until college, and I went to college much later in life. Here is the thing though, most folks from my hometown do not go to college. A lot of my former classmates still live in the same town and have never had any education beyond the half truths and blatant lies taught to us in our school. That town that I came from by the way? Yeah, it overwhelmingly voted for Trump in 2016. Sure, we could say it had to do with its poor economy felt by most of Michigan after the crash of the auto industry, but I am guessing based on its recent spotlight for anti-Semitism, that is not the case. (Special shout out to that former high school classmate that I ran into a few years ago while he was drunk and ranting about keeping the “coloreds in Flint where they belong.”)
And all of this brings me back to today, in the year 2017, when the United States President said that very fine people hang out with white supremacists. These very fine people that are ranting about preserving history by keeping up Confederate flags and statues surely must be ready to fight for better education for their kids. They have to be just as passionate about preserving history by ensuring that their kids receive accurate history lessons. Or could it be that their Tiki torches only burn bright for the inaccurate history that they were taught, the history that tells them that white people are very fine indeed.
*image credit: ABC News