There are a large number of things happening in the world today that keep me awake nights – the trampling of our voting rights in nearly every state in the U.S.; the great divide between followers of the two political parties in the U.S. and the lies being told; the lack of interest on the part of Congress to act in the best interest of the people of this nation; the war in Ukraine and the potential for world-wide disaster; the increase in racism and homophobia; climate change and our abysmal failure to address it in any meaningful ways; the failure of people to understand that COVID is NOT over; the alarming increase in the ownership of guns and their use, and much more. However, the one that kept me awake last night was the whitewashing of history in the nation’s schools, prompted by racist individuals and supported by government and the courts.
Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill is just the tip of the iceberg. Many states are rebelling against the teaching of actual history and would prefer that schools teach only the more ‘noble’ moments in our history, leaving out or altering the facts about those moments that white Europeans were unconscionably cruel and murderous. I well remember when I first learned in school about Christopher Columbus, the settlers who came here to escape religious persecution in Europe, and how the Indigenous People taught the settlers how to fend for themselves, how to grow food, and then on that first Thanksgiving, how they sat side-by-side and broke bread together. A lovely story, only … it’s just a small part of the story. Back in the 1950s, we weren’t taught about how the white settlers then turned on the natives, killed them and ran them off of their lands. Slowly but surely, education began coming ‘round to the idea of teaching the facts, but suddenly in the last decade or so, that situation is reversing yet again!
I was in high school before I learned of white man’s treachery against the natives, and even then it wasn’t dealt with in any depth, but merely skimmed in the textbooks. Today, in the 21st century, an increasingly large number of people are claiming a notion called ‘white supremacy’, the concept that people with whiter skin are somehow mentally and physically ‘superior’ to others. You and I know this is bullshit … if anything, the reverse is true.
The history of the U.S., although shorter than that of most other nations, is fraught with the evil of humans and if we cover that up, bury it like dog poop, or whitewash it to make it seem just a blip, then we are committing a crime against future generations, for they will not have the opportunity to view history through a clear glass, to make their own judgments, draw their own conclusions, and learn the lessons that history has to teach. They will be ill-prepared, as are many of today’s politicos, to understand the world they live in, to understand for instance the anger of Black people when one is killed for no good reason.
Ask a teenager today if they know why the BlackLivesMatter protests happened? Do they understand that the murders of George Floyd and so many others make it apparent that we are heading back to the days before Civil Rights legislation, the days of Jim Crow, the KKK, and Black people being treated as if they were dirt? Do they know what the Trail of Tears was, what happened, and why? Do they know that after the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, the United States government dispossessed thousands of Japanese-Americans, sent them to camps where they barely survived after losing their homes, their jobs, and all their worldly goods?
And more recently, do they know about the massacre at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida, in 2016? Do they understand that crimes are being committed against people just because of who they love? Do they know about the Charleston church shooting in 2015? Or the one in Sutherland Springs, Texas in 2017? All acts committed by those who believe their white skin, religion, or gender somehow gives them the “right” to kill people simply for looking, acting, or thinking differently than they do!
I no longer have school-age children, but if I did, I would be demanding that my child be taught the true history of the United States, which is not quite as pretty as the history that Governor DeSantis and other lawmakers across the nation would prefer to be taught. Teach them yourselves if you have to, but please … do not let the next generation grow up stupid, foolishly believing that the history of white people in the U.S. is somehow noble. The truth matters, even when it’s painful, and if we ignore the truth, then we will only devolve, never evolve. What the schools are doing is a form of censorship … censorship no different than what we’re seeing done by the Russian leader today, denying people the truth.
Rather than banning books, buy them, place them in your child’s hands, read them yourself if you haven’t already. Knowledge is power and we are depriving our children, grandchildren, and all future generations of that power, destining them to continue down the path of ignorance. The fate of the world hinges on what our children learn today.