The next presidential election is in just under 20 months, but you’d think it was next week if you looked at the news! 90% of the front page stories have the ‘T-word’ or the ‘DeS-word’ and an alien just dropping in from another universe would be forgiven for thinking the United States is a looney bin! I tried to avoid every story that was, indirectly or directly, about the election and the two top Republican contenders, which left me only with news of China’s President Xi’s visit to Russia for a photo op. Okay, so let’s just have a few of the political cartoons I’ve been collecting for this afternoon, as I really don’t feel up to digging any deeper to try to find some actual news.
Tag Archives: whitewashing history
The Future Of Teaching U.S. History???
Alexandra Petri is a satirical columnist for The Washington Post. This week, she opines on the re-writing of history to suit the racists in Florida, led by none other than Governor DeSantis, and it is both appalling and yet at the same time humorous. Remember, this is tongue-in-cheek, satire … until it becomes reality.
Excerpts from a civics textbook I assume would be welcome in Florida
20 March 2023
“Rosa Parks showed courage. One day, she rode the bus. She was told to move to a different seat because of the color of her skin. She did not. She did what she believed was right.”
“Rosa Parks showed courage. One day, she rode the bus. She was told to move to a different seat. She did not. She did what she believed was right.”
— Two versions of a first-grade lesson from Studies Weekly, a publisher whose social studies curriculums are currently used in Florida elementary schools. Studies Weekly revised the lesson more than once, omitting any mention of racism or segregation, to submit for a state review of social studies materials.
American history is full of many heroes, whose accomplishments we will have no problem telling you about in the state of Florida! They fought for justice, which was brave of them, if a little redundant, because there was no specific injustice to fight against. Here are just a few of their stories!
Harriet Tubman is considered an inspiring figure by many because she made many trips on foot, often with other people. She specifically led trips from the South to the North, often at night. At night, you can see the stars! It is great to lead trips. She was a hero.
Frederick Douglass was famous, too! We celebrated him during the Trump administration for being someone “who’s done an amazing job” and whose contributions are still being “recognized more and more.” He also gave a noteworthy speech about the Fourth of July. Who doesn’t love the Fourth of July?
John Brown is regarded by some as a heroic figure. Famously, he went to what is now West Virginia (Wild and Wonderful!). He also grew a luxurious beard. Once, he was very excited to visit a weapons arsenal. We support West Virginia tourism!
Abraham Lincoln was a tall man who did something that was a very important thing to do, and especially at that time. He was president during the Civil War, which was fought from 1861 to 1865 between a group of people whom it was universally agreed would make wonderful, handsome statues and some other people who may have had reasons. He even made a proclamation, probably unnecessarily! He famously went to the same play as John Wilkes Booth, a very talented actor who also loved to exercise his Second Amendment rights! It is nice when actors support the Second Amendment. Too often, woke Hollywood doesn’t.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and some of her friends went to Seneca Falls, N.Y., and had a conference there. At the conference, she talked about things related to ladies. Seneca Falls is a nice place to visit, especially in the summer!
Jonas Salk was a famous doctor. He invented a vaccine against polio, which was good because it made not being vaccinated against polio a choice, which it had not been before. Giving people choices is wonderful!
Rosa Parks was asked to move to a different seat, but she didn’t. People who sit are heroes! For instance, Thurgood Marshall famously sat on a bench. He was a hero, too.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born on March 15, 1933. She spent 71 years of her life on the planet at the same time as Ronald Reagan! This was a big achievement. She also famously sat on a bench. We love it when people sit!
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream and told people about it! King made some people upset, probably because it is annoying when people recount their dreams to you at length, but possibly for other reasons. He is no longer with us, but he is still celebrated today because his works provided so many out-of-context quotations for White people to use to explain why it is not important to fight racism any more. (Which was never important to do, because it did not exist.)
John Lewis was a hero! He famously marched across a bridge. This upset some people. People have strong feelings about infrastructure. Have you ever walked across a bridge? He was such a hero that they named a whole road after him and then some people wanted to rename a little piece of it after Donald Trump!
The Little Rock Nine went to school! Some people did not want them to go to school, and there were protests and guards were called in. It is sad: Even today, some people just don’t want other people to learn! They went anyway. It is good to go to school, where you can learn so much about history!
“Protect the Children” They Say … WHICH Children???
When I read Charles Blow’s column last night, my breath caught in my throat and I felt tears welling behind my eyes. I knew it needed to be shared, to be read and thought about far and wide. Please take a minute to read it and think about the injustice being done to nearly half the children in this nation. “Protect the children,” DeSantis and others say … but what they really mean is protect the white children and to hell with all others.
The Other Children in the DeSantis Culture War
08 March 2023
ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s midday on Saturday in Orlando’s Greenwood Cemetery, and just up an incline from an algae-covered pond a group of students encircle a grave. Many are holding a book — some clutching it to their chests the way a preacher holds a Bible.
That book, “A History of Florida Through Black Eyes,” was written by Marvin Dunn, an emeritus professor at Florida International University, who is among those gathered. He quiets the group before telling the gripping story of the man beneath the tombstone. The man was Julius “July” Perry, a Black voting rights activist who was killed — arrested, then dragged from jail by a white mob and lynched — on Election Day in 1920 during the Ocoee Massacre, the culmination of a tragic chain of events set in motion, according to accounts, by a Black man attempting to vote.
The stop at the cemetery was part of the second “Teach the Truth” tour, a field trip to historic Black sites in Florida, organized by Dunn in response to the threat to teaching comprehensive Black history posed by the anti-woke hysteria of the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis.
“Teach the Truth” is full of visits to the graves of Black people killed by white racists, cases Dunn told me he focuses on “because those are the ones that are easiest to forget” — the “hard stories” that are, as he says, the ones most in need of preservation.
On this tour there are about two dozen students. One of them is Marcus Green, a 15-year-old Black boy, tall and thin, with searching, almond-shaped eyes, a crown of finger-length braids and a quiet, deliberative demeanor that occasionally surrenders a smile.
As we stand under a shade tree waiting for the tour bus, Marcus tells me what it feels like for him to be a student in Florida right now, that he is balancing a sense of empowerment and fear. I asked why he invoked fear, and he said: “Because you can’t help but feel it.”
His mother tells me that she signed him up for the tour because he was frustrated by the feeling that there was so much of his history that he didn’t know.
The next tour stop was in Live Oak, at the graveside of Willie James Howard, a teenager lynched because he wrote a love letter to a white girl. Her father kidnapped Howard from his home at gunpoint, took him to a bluff overlooking the Suwannee River and offered the boy an impossible choice: take a bullet from a barrel aimed at his head or jump — with his hands and feet bound — and take his chances in the water.
The boy chose the river. The river won.
As Dunn told the story of Howard — whom he has described as Florida’s Emmett Till — Marcus’s face rippled as he repeatedly clenched his jaw and furrowed his brow. Howard was then the same age as Marcus is now: 15. As he told me: “That could have been me.”
Dunn called the students forward to touch Howard’s gravestone, which they did, one at a time. Marcus held back, but eventually stepped forward, bent down and pressed his open palm to the stone. He held it there, then slowly released, later telling me that when he touched it, he “felt a sense of serenity.”
As the group made its way to the spot along the river where Howard leapt to his death, a local radio station replayed an interview between DeSantis and Sean Hannity in which DeSantis called the Advanced Placement course in African American studies that he has vocally opposed “garbage” and “neo-Marxist indoctrination.”
The message — like the message in several of DeSantis’s broadsides aimed at academic freedom and so-called wokeness — is a medley of buzz-wordy circumlocution.
Too much of the debate about DeSantis’s cynical censorship craze has centered the opinions of adults, the theories of politicians and the feelings of white children — feelings presumed to be hurt if they encounter, in class, some of our history’s bleakest episodes.
But what about the other children, the roughly 600,000 Black students in Florida’s public schools, like Marcus, searching for a history that includes them — a history of them — who now feel targeted and afraid? Do they not matter in this debate? What about their needs and their feelings?
My conversations with Marcus echo those I recently had with another 15-year-old student from Florida, Adrianna Gutierrez, who identifies as Afro-Latina and as a lesbian, and therefore feels the brunt of both DeSantis’s anti-Black studies and history push and his anti-L.G.B.T.Q. push, including his state’s Don’t Say Gay law.
Adrianna called the situation in Florida “surreal” and said it feels like things are in a “state of chaos,” all of which has pushed her toward activism.
She said the first protest she attended, late last year, was “scary” because although she knew some people didn’t like her for who she was, she had never come face-to-face with hate as intense and concentrated as it was among the counterprotesters who were there.
As she recalled it, many of the counterprotesters brought young children with them, carried signs with slogans about school being a “place to learn and not teach about transgenderism” and they yelled, “Protect our children.”
But who’s going to protect children like Marcus and Adrianna, children who want to know our full history; who want to find themselves and be themselves and deserve to feel safe in the pursuit? Hiding the complexities or harsher truths of the past from them is to rob them of tools they need to navigate and survive in a still-hostile world, one in which horrors aren’t confined to graves nor queer people confined to closets.
On the last stop of the “Teach the Truth” tour, Dunn drove the group down an ivory-colored dirt road in the Rosewood community to a wooded area he’s converting into a remembrance park for the victims of the Rosewood Massacre.
He told the children about a tense encounter in September, when he visited the site with another group, including his son, and the neighbor across the street charged at them in his truck while yelling the n-word and “almost killed my son.” The neighbor was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
As Dunn told the story, a placard next to the neighbor’s fence was visible. It read: “DeSantisland: Land of Liberty.”
Context and perspective – a reprise that still applies
Our friend Keith is always a fountain of wise words, but his post of yesterday went above and beyond. It is both thoughtful and thought-provoking, and I urge you to read it, ponder for a bit on the price to be paid for the whitewashing of history, for our failure to teach the next generation the reality and consequences of our past. Thank you, Keith.
A few years ago, I felt a great need to write this post with the continuation of white washing of history and gaslighting others to believe a certain narrative. In spite of the ongoing efforts by certain governors in Florida, Texas and elsewhere, true history is not getting discussed and taught like it needs to be. Bad things were done by so-called leaders based on inflamed fears. Fear has been a selling tool as long as people have been in power to get the masses to do what they want.We must know this and learn lessons to avoid it in the future.
I learned yesterday, a former colleague passed away. She was an interesting person whose history was a lesson in and of itself. Her mother escaped Nazi occupied Poland with her on her mother’s back as a toddler, running across a field with machine gun fire over their…
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Voices of Wisdom
One of the things that most concerns me today is Ron DeSantis’ attempts to re-write the history of this nation. Bad enough that he has succeeded in making equality, education, and justice taboo in the state of Florida, but given his almost certain bid for the presidency next year, his obvious goal is to control the narrative at the national level – a move that can lead to only one place, a very dark and dangerous place. The following by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner is a highly perceptive assessment of the danger that is Ron DeSantis.
Delighting in division
Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner
02 February 2023
Much of American history is entangled with racism and white supremacy. That is the reality of our beloved nation, no matter how much we wish it were not.
As we sit here nearly a quarter of the way through the 21st century, it is obvious that we need to have the maturity to look back to our past as well as ahead to the future. Can we do this with our eyes wide open? Will we study and learn from the lessons of history?
You can’t grapple with the truth if you hide it from view. Yes, our national narrative is an inspiring one — of freedom, rights, and new opportunities. But it is also a narrative of pain — of the bondage, rape, and murder of enslaved people. It is a story of mass death, broken treaties, and land stolen from Native people. And it is a story of persecution of the “other,” time and again.
The chasm between the noble promises of our founding documents and our historical realities continues to obstruct our national journey toward a more perfect union.
Yes, ours is a country that has facilitated exploration, innovation, and growth, but it is also one built upon families torn apart at the auction block, bodies whipped, and police dogs and fire hoses set against children.
Cities were redlined. Public schools were segregated. And despite our carefully cultivated national image as a meritocracy, throughout our history we have seen talent overlooked and our common humanity diminished on account of people’s race, religion, and sexual orientation.
The ripples of injustice continue to destabilize our society.
It shouldn’t be controversial to say any of this. But acknowledging these truths today is a political act, because it threatens the privileged narratives of those who seek to sugarcoat our past. These are men and women who serve their own ambitions by fortifying their cynical holds on power, delighting in division, feeding off fear, and applauding anger.
And that brings us to Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis.
Listing all of his efforts to leverage the power of his office to attack equity, empathy, and justice would stretch this post immeasurably. But doing so would also jeopardize the central point: DeSantis is an opportunist. He is not weighing the merits of any one campaign. Rather, he wants headlines as a culture warrior standing up to “wokeness,” a term he has eagerly redefined to suit his own purposes. It allows him to sneer at and dismiss any attempt to reckon with American injustice.
DeSantis has focused his assaults on two of our society’s most traditionally marginalized groups: Black Americans and the LGBTQ community. While these populations have thus far felt the brunt of his targeting, we need to see clearly that his rhetoric is a threat to all who care about a democratic, peaceful, empathetic, and just America. Those of us with the greatest privilege should bear a special burden in rejecting this hate.
DeSantis’s pugilism has enabled him to consolidate power in Florida. Any opposition to his toxic initiatives must contend with the uncomfortable truth that voters validated his message and style via his landslide win in November. Now DeSantis thinks he can take his show on the road with a presidential bid. That remains to be seen. Florida has been trending Republican in recent years, and success there might not translate to the current battleground states, many of which saw big Democratic wins in the midterms.
All that being said, there is a great danger to framing this struggle primarily through the lens of electoral politics. This normalizes a discourse that should be rejected by society’s mainstream. Just as the outright bigotry of the past became socially unacceptable, so too should these latest attempts at divisiveness.
It should not surprise us that DeSantis is making schools — both K-12 and college — a central target. He wants to teach a distorted view of America. He wants to make dissenting speech not only suspect but even criminal. He wants to silence the voices of his critics and of critical thinking more generally. This is a playbook that has been followed by demagogues before to very dangerous ends.
It is essential that DeSantis not be covered by the press through a false equivalence paradigm. We can debate what we should teach and how to teach it. But we can’t replace the truth, as unsavory as it may be, with sanitized narratives that suit those already in power. This is a battle for the minds of the voters of the future. This is about what kind of nation we will become.
But DeSantis primarily cares about what kind of country we are now. He wants to appeal to fear because he thinks he can mine that fear for votes. That is his game plan. And he’s not hiding it. There can be no appeasement. DeSantis has already shown that he isn’t interested in deliberations or good faith compromise. Those would disrupt his approach of means to an end.
History illustrates that hatred can be taught, but so can empathy and justice. We are on a winding journey as a nation. And we have much farther to go. But we have made progress in the face of bigots and autocrats because people had the courage to forge the inequities of our past into a more equitable future.
This history, this truth, is what scares people like DeSantis the most. But it is one that can give us hope if we are determined not to look away.
Welcome Ron To The 21st Century!
I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and all the good people of Florida who voted for him two months ago to the woke world of the 21st century! DeSantis, who has a 0 rating with the Human Rights Campaign, but an A+ rating with the National Rifle Association (NRA), has a lot to learn about this 21st century and about humanity!
DeSantis throws the word ‘woke’ around as if it were a basketball, but he has weaponized it, he spits it out as if it were the most vile, disgusting thing in the world. We really need to teach him a bit of humanity … or rather, we need to teach his voters a bit of humanity and then they can teach him humility!
What, you ask, has set me off on this tangent? Well, mostly everything he’s done over the last two years, but most recently his attention to universities in his state that may be teaching such things as … diversity, equality, and inclusion … GASP!!! No, he’s not interested in them because he wants to commend them for their efforts to open the eyes of the young people of his state … rather he is most likely considering cutting funding for universities that include such humanitarian lessons in their curriculum.
On December 28th, Chris Spencer, director of DeSantis’ Office of Policy and Budget, sent a memo to the head of the university system requiring colleges and universities to “provide a comprehensive list of all staff, programs and campus activities related to diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory.” In addition, they are directed to detail “costs associated with the administration of each program or activity,” including a description of the activities, paid positions and how much of the money is provided by the state.
United Faculty of Florida President Andrew Gothard said yesterday that his union is “deeply concerned” about the memo, which he called a “horrible directive.”
“Attempts such as these by the governor to chill speech and to intimidate those he disagrees with into remaining silent, altering their curriculum, and silencing their students are an affront to democracy and the American way of life. Let those who supported Governor DeSantis in the recent election heed this warning: A man who will silence those whom he disagrees — in the classroom and beyond — will one day find a reason to silence you as well.” [emphasis added]
That last sentence is both profound and chilling.
The memo also states that the purpose of education is to “prepare them for employment.” Well … that is certainly part of the purpose of education, but by no means the only purpose. Education has a far higher purpose … to prepare young people for life … all aspects of life. The goal is to help people choose the path that is right for them, to help them understand how the lessons of history apply to life in the 21st century and beyond, to teach them to adapt and adjust to the ever-changing circumstances in the world. DeSantis’ narrow views of education will hamstring the next generation of Floridians, will leave them unable to survive outside their own communities, unprepared to meet life’s challenges.
DeSantis would like to shield his entire state from the ugly face of racism by simply pretending it doesn’t exist. He seems to think that if he simply says, “Don’t say gay,” then the LGBTQ community will simply disappear. DeSantis and others like him truly have not grown up, never matured beyond their sheltered childhoods protected from the realities of life. What the people of Florida who elected him two months ago were seeking is beyond my comprehension, but what they got was an ignorant bigot who would like to turn his state into a mythological place where everyone looks alike, acts alike, and thinks alike … one that would never survive in the real world. If the people open their eyes and realize their mistake, I would strongly advise them to start petitioning their state legislators to impeach Governor DeSantis, for Florida relies heavily on tourism for its survival, and DeSantis is in the process of making Florida the most hated state in the nation.
A Few Thoughts From The Bouncing Mind
I don’t know if it’s the weather, the holidays or what, but I cannot seem to concentrate on any single topic long enough to write a more in-depth post for the past few days. I need to have a heart-to-heart talk with my brain, I think. Or would that be a heart-to-brain talk? Is the brain even available for a chat, or is it out to lunch? For now, though, I will share with you just a few of the thoughts that bounced around in my brain last night!
Today’s the big day!!!
The runoff election in Georgia will determine whether Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock or Republican challenger Herschel Walker will take their seat in the United States Senate on January 3rd. My fingers are so tightly crossed that they’ve lost all feeling in hopes that the people of Georgia are smarter than the Republican nominee and will vote for a man who has a proven track record in the Senate, a man with integrity and values. Let Mr. Walker go back to his vampire movies while Senator Warnock helps make the laws that will govern us all.
Will the Court do the right thing? Don’t hold your breath
Will they rule for or against the LGBTQ community? It seems to me that if you own a business, you welcome customers … all customers. What savvy business owner would turn away a paying customer because of the colour of his skin or his religion? Or his gender identity? Remember the Masterpiece Cakeshop case in 2018 where a Colorado bakery refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple because the owner of the cakeshop thought same-sex marriage was a sin? What is it with Colorado, anyway? The latest case before the Supreme Court is about whether a Colorado web designer, a woman who creates websites for a living, can refuse to create a website for a same-sex couple simply because their life choices go against her narrow-minded religion.
I have little trust of today’s Supreme Court, which is tragic in itself. It has been hijacked by rigid right-wing partisans who are more likely to rule in favour of the web designer. Since the additions of Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Barrett, a number of unjust rulings have been issued, not the least of which was the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v Wade and set women’s rights back 50 years or more. So, I will be shocked … pleasantly so … if the Court tells the web designer that she cannot discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community.
For what it’s worth, here’s my two cents. If you own a business that is open to the public, it is open to ALL the public, including LGBTQ+ people. To decide otherwise would be to throw wide open the doors of discrimination in every venue across the U.S. Imagine, if you will, a nation where Black people are banned from Kroger or Safeway grocery stores, or where Jews are not welcome in certain clothing stores or restaurants. If you are in business, you serve one and all. Remember the days, not all that long ago, when in the South there were signs on doors, “Whites Only”? Do you want to see signs on doors that read, “Straight White Christians Only”? If your prejudices are so severe that you cannot open your mind and the doors of your business to people who are different, then you have no business being in business. Full Stop.
It’s all relative
There was a time when Florida’s Ron DeSantis would have been viewed as terrible material for a presidential candidate. And now … he seems to be garnering support from some in the GOP, as well as the voting public on the right. What changed? Did DeSantis become more ‘acceptable’ through some actions of his own? No. He became more ‘acceptable’ as an alternative to the madman who once occupied the Oval Office and who is running once again. If you have no other points of comparison, and you put Trump and DeSantis side-by-side, then yes, DeSantis looks pretty damn good. But then, compared to Trump, Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie The Shining looks pretty good!
I firmly believe that Donald Trump’s name will not be on the final ballot in November 2024, but even so, I would also hate to see DeSantis as the GOP nominee. Like Trump, DeSantis is a bigot in most every way, but unlike Trump, he is relatively intelligent and knows how to obtain what he wants. And, for some reason that escapes me, he has gained a significant amount of popularity, though none of my Floridian friends have any use at all for him. Fortunately, 2024 is almost two years away and a lot can happen in two years, so I’m not going into panic mode yet, and neither should you.
The price we pay for declining education
I’ve written many times of late about the efforts, primarily by evangelicals and Republicans to whitewash the history of the United States. I have argued that we need to keep that history — the good, the bad, and the ugly parts — in the forefront of our children’s education so they can ensure we NEVER return to the days of slavery, of Jim Crow, of the KKK. I’ve also argued against book bans, yet today school districts are banning more and more books, further narrowing the minds of the next generations! I think the following chart makes my point perfectly …
And now for just a few ‘toons that highlight the news of the day …
A Day In Honour Of Indigenous Peoples
This is a partial reprise of a post I did in 2019, but with some revisions/additions/updates.
Last Friday, 7 October 2022, President Biden issued the 2nd Presidential Proclamation on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. There has been a growing movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day and at least ten states have already done so. Ten other states officially observe the day, though they have not replaced Columbus Day as yet. In addition, more than 100 cities have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, including Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston, Denver, Phoenix and San Francisco.
Many students learn the phrase, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”. But Columbus was not the first foreign explorer to land in the Americas. Neither he nor those that came before him discovered America—because Indigenous Peoples have populated the Western Hemisphere for tens of thousands of years. European contact resulted in devastating loss of life, disruption of tradition, and enormous loss of lands for Indigenous Peoples in the Americas. It is estimated that in the 130 years following first contact, Native America lost 95 percent of its population.
Over the past few decades there has been a growing movement to alter the holiday to honour those who first occupied the country. So … how did this all start?
In 1977, the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas, sponsored by the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, began to discuss replacing Columbus Day in the United States with a celebration to be known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
1992 would mark the 500th anniversary of the voyage of Columbus, and there was a “Quincentennial Jubilee” planned to mark the date. In San Francisco, the day was to include replicas of Columbus’ ships sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge and reenacting their “discovery” of America. It was then that the Bay Area Indian Alliance was formed, and they created the “Resistance 500” task force, promoting the idea that Columbus’ “discovery” of inhabited lands and subsequent European colonization of these areas had resulted in the genocide of indigenous peoples by decisions of colonial and national governments.
The group convinced the city council of Berkeley, California, to declare October 12 as a “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People” and 1992 the “Year of Indigenous People”. The city implemented related programs in schools, libraries, and museums. The city symbolically renamed Columbus Day as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” beginning in 1992 to protest the historical conquest of North America by Europeans, and to call attention to the losses suffered by the Native American peoples and their cultures through diseases, warfare, massacres, and forced assimilation.
In the current socio-political culture whereby many states and localities are attempting to whitewash the history of this nation, to pretend that European settlers, white people, were some shining stars without fault, I think it is more important than ever that we remember our past, recognize the horrific wrongs that were done to Indigenous Peoples as well as Blacks, Hispanics and others, in order to ensure that future generations will will never repeat these terrible tragedies.In the years following Berkeley’s action, other local governments and institutions have either renamed or canceled Columbus Day, either to celebrate Native American history and cultures, to avoid celebrating Columbus and the European colonization of the Americas, or due to raised controversy over the legacy of Columbus.
Let’s take a look at just a few of the many contributions indigenous people have made to our world:
- Constitution & Bill of Rights: According to Benjamin Franklin, the “concept” for the federal government was influenced by the Constitution of the Iroquois League of Nations.
- Sign Language: Today, hand signals are used to communicate with those who are deaf and/or mute. A similar system was originated to facilitate trade between Native Americans and early trappers/traders.
- Products: Native Americans are credited with introducing such diverse products as snowshoes, moccasins, toboggans, buckskin jackets, Kayaks, cradle boards, tomahawks, rubber, cotton, quinine, tobacco, cigars, and pipe smoking, among others.
- Military Service: The participation rate of Native Americans in military service is higher than for any other ethnic group in the U.S. Members from many Indian nations have served with distinction and in a way that helped the U.S. win World Wars I and II… through the use of their various Native languages.
- Conservation: The Native Americans have always held a deep respect for the land and for our connection to this planet known as “Mother Earth.” They have always striven to live in harmony with the seasons and the land, to take only what was needed, and to thank every plant, animal, or thing that was used.
- Art/Design: The traditional and contemporary music of Native Americans have become integrated in many other cultures and musical styles. Indian artwork such as paintings, beadwork, totem poles, turquoise jewelry, and silversmithing, all remain beautiful and unmatched in this society.
And of course, a wide variety of foods, including potatoes, beans, corn, peanuts, pumpkins, tomatoes, squash, peppers, nuts, melons, and sunflower seeds.
We can never make up to the indigenous people in the Americas for what was done to their ancestors, but we can resolve to do better, and we can honour them in this way, by setting aside a special day of remembrance for all that they went through, and for all that they have given.
Note to Readers: I am closing comments on this post, for the comments have gotten out of hand. Sorry, folks.
Sixty-Seven Years Ago …
This is a repeat of a post I published on this date last year. With all the efforts by certain states to whitewash the history of this nation, or to simply refrain from teaching our next generation about the history of the nation they live in, I think it is more important than ever before to be reminded of some parts of our past. Disturbing? Hell yes! But it happened and to ignore it is a crime … one that will have serious consequences in the future. And so, please bear with me as I tell you the story of Emmett Till once again …
It was sixty-seven years ago today that a 14-year-old boy, Emmett Till, was brutally murdered for the crime of being Black in a town called Money, Mississippi. You all know the story, but allow me to just quickly refresh your memories …
Emmett was from ‘up north’ in Chicago, but his mother had sent him to Mississippi to spend the final two weeks of summer with his beloved grandfather before returning to school. One day he went into a small store to buy some candy and as the cashier returned his change, his hand accidentally and briefly touched hers. That, my friends, was all it took to get this young man killed.
By the time the story had been spread and embellished on, it was said that he caressed the clerk … a woman much older than Emmett who he would likely have seen as being the age of his own mother … had wolf-whistled and flirted with her. While none of these are crimes, more importantly, he did none of the above as witnesses would later recall. But this was Mississippi in the 1950s, the Jim Crow era.
Long story short, his assailants—the white woman’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, John Milam—dragged young Emmett from his grandfather’s home and made him carry a 75-pound cotton gin fan to the bank of the Tallahatchie River and ordered him to take off his clothes. The two men then beat him nearly to death, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head and then threw his body, tied to the cotton gin fan with barbed wire, into the river.
In September a trial was held for the two murderers and on September 23, the all-white, all-male jury deliberated 67 minutes before acquitting Bryant and Milam. Jurors later admitted in interviews that although they knew Bryant and Milam were guilty of Till’s murder, they did not think imprisonment or the death penalty were appropriate punishments for white men who had killed a black man. The white woman, Carolyn Bryant, later recanted her testimony.
Why do I rehash this story today? This is one of thousands of tragic stories from that era, but it is one that has received the most attention, one that we can point to and say, “That is who we used to be.” Or … can we? I have fairly recently come to believe that it is still who some of us are today. I don’t think it’s a long stretch of the imagination to think of a similar atrocity happening in 21st Century Mississippi … or Alabama … Louisiana … Texas.
This is why we MUST teach about Emmett Till and the others in our schools today. We must open the eyes of our young people to the past in order to ensure we don’t repeat that sordid past. Just a few weeks ago, before Afghanistan took the spotlight, there was a big brouhaha about teaching ‘Critical Race Theory’ in the schools. There is an element of our society who would have future generations believe that the U.S. was founded only on compassion and altruism, that the nation’s history is all rosy and beautiful. It isn’t.
Every single schoolchild by the age of 12 should be aware of the story of Emmett Till, as well as Thomas Moss, Will Stewart, Calvin McDowell and thousands of others. Don’t recognize those names? Look them up! Some 6,500 Black people were lynched in the United States between 1865 and 1950 – and that’s only the ones we know about. No, this is not the ‘pretty’ part of our history BUT … it IS part of our history, part of what has made this nation what it is today. To hide it, to sweep it under the carpet, is criminal and ultimately will lead us right back to that dirty, dark place of the Jim Crow era. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go back there.
Education On The Chopping Block
The education of our young people is probably the single most critical issue, after climate change and the environment, that our nation faces today. In recent decades, we have seen the decline of our public education system. Schools have stopped or cut back on teaching such things as civics, social sciences, philosophy, and even literature, trading them for a more technical education based on computers and their applications. That was bad enough, for we now have a generation of adults who in many cases are unaware of the role history has played in leading up to our lives today, do not understand how our government works, and are not deep thinkers. They are not the problem-solvers of tomorrow that we so desperately need. Oh sure, they can write a computer program to accomplish almost anything, but they are not well-versed in real-world issues, are not the problem solvers we need today. Not every problem can be fixed with a computer application!
But today, rather than trying to address these problems, trying to give our youth a more well-rounded, liberal arts education, politicians and religious groups are attempting to diminish our schools even further. I believe that there is a reason for this, that they do not want the kid from the poor side of town who put himself through college by hard work, to become the nation’s leaders of tomorrow. However, the reason is less important than the effects, so let’s focus on what is happening in our schools today, the attempts to undermine the value of our children’s education.
About a month ago, I wrote about Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey who, rather than raise teacher’s salaries in order to attract more teachers, removed the requirement for teachers to have a college degree. The only educational requirement to be a teacher in Arizona is that you be enrolled in college or university. This week, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis is proposing a plan to bypass teacher certification and hire former first responders including former police officers, firefighters and EMTs as well as former members of the military. Like Ducey in Arizona, DeSantis would rather lower the standards for teachers than use some of his budget surplus to raise teacher pay. Obviously, the future of our country is not of any great importance to Ron DeSantis.
Meanwhile in South Dakota, Governor Kristi Noem released a revised proposal for social studies standards in public schools that lays out a mostly shining vision of American history, one that omits large blocks of facts and focuses more on religion. Noem claims she is “weeding out certain divisive teachings on race” in public schools. Weeding out facts. The new standards would put forth the idea that from its inception, this nation has provided equal rights and access to all races and genders. The standards also include a significant amount of ‘Christian’ history. Now, if I’m Jewish or Muslim, paying my taxes and sending my child to public school, I’m going to have a problem with her learning that there is some superiority to Christianity, that this nation is a ‘Christian nation’. And if I’m Black or Native American, I’m going to have a real big problem with the whitewashing of the history of my ancestors.
And then in Arizona, there is Kari Lake, running for governor against Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs. Lake claims she would model the educational model in Arizona based on that of Hillsdale College, a private Christian school in Michigan that’s influential in right-wing circles and is run by Larry Arnn who spearheaded Donald Trump’s short-lived 1776 Commission, created to support what Trump called ‘patriotic education.’ Ms. Lake has said she would work to “ban diversity, equity, and inclusion training in schools.” Oh yeah, that’s just what we need! Ban diversity, ban equality, encourage even more racism and bigotry than we already have! Why not just start a KKK school and teach kids how to hate even more than their parents do? Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
There are more examples, but you get the picture. Our education system in recent decades has devolved. Especially under the four-year leadership of former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, schools have lost much of the emphasis that used to be placed on turning out students who were fully prepared to take on leadership roles, to help shape the future of the nation. If the current trend continues, I don’t even want to try to envision this nation twenty years from now.