I am addressing these words specifically to white people, because people of color in this country already know about racism. It is a daily part of their lives. I know, it is “might white” of me to speak to you on the behalf of other Americans, and I wished I did not have to. I wouldn’t have to if you would listen to what they have to say. I am only an “okay” writer. There are works out there, new and old, that are much better written, spoken, or sung than I could ever produce that speaks about the injustice of racism that streams from White America all day, every day. So, I would like to address a few issues and maybe we can all work on them together to make America the country we strive to be.
First up is history. We, White America, have to do one very important thing so that history can truly be taught in our school systems. We have to stop whitewashing history. That is what we do, we do not like looking bad, so we gloss over the bad things. We also tend to flat out ignore contributions to the world that come from other people. A common thing I have heard growing up, always around or in February, is “Why don’t we have White History Month?” We do, it is called the rest of the year. We actually have cultural heritage months for many different cultural backgrounds, but we only ever celebrate Black History Month. How? By learning about the amazing power of the peanut and reading Native Son. The achievements of those with a non-European background should be woven into the curriculum. Instead it is white, white, white, white, white, white, black, white, white, white, and white. Also, the only reason we have Black History Month is because we enslaved them, treated them worse than livestock, and after they were freed we still treated them like less than a real person for 100 more years. We were not quite as bad to other cultures, except maybe American Indians, and we still treat them like shit, but they have casinos.
In addition to getting rid of cultural heritage months, by including the contributions of others in the curriculum during the rest of the school year, we need to start telling the truth about history. Loudly. Lets speak just about American History. It would take up too much to talk about the global whitewashing of history. We need to teach about all of the treaties and promises the US made with American Indians, then broke. The genocide we perpetrated against the peoples who inhabited this land before we got here. Then we need to stop telling the lies that we tell regarding slavery and the Civil War. These lies are ones that I heard relatively young, and stuck with me for far too long. There were no white slaves. Poor Europeans, mainly Irish and Scottish, did come here to work as indentured servants or prisoners, but they were never slaves. They had a time limit on their servitude to another (the term is indentured servant), they had protections under the law, they had avenues of redress, and they could run if they wanted to. They were able to blend in with just about every community. So far from slavery, though it was exactly those points that caused chattel slavery of Africans. The land owners did not want people with time limits, who had protection under the law, a means of redress, and they wanted them not to be able to blend in very well if they ran away. American Indians would not work, they knew the land better and could run away fairly easily. Well, they found the answer on the continent of Africa and the slave trade began.
The next big lie comes from the Civil War. Again, this is something I heard when I was young and believed for an embarrassing number of years. The Civil War was not about slavery. It was an issue, but not the major issue. This is a very insidious lie. It sounds like it could almost be true, especially when those telling the lie begin to speak about states rights and economic issues and trade. It is all bullshit, but it almost sounds true, especially to impressionable kids. The Civil War was about slavery, full stop, end of story. The states rights, trade, and other economic issues were part of it in the same way that a mascot is part of sports team. Its there, but nobody cares about it and it does not do anything but help distract. The Southern States wanted the right to keep slaves, because their entire way of life centered on the fact that they had a large unpaid work force that was treated worse than livestock. Slavery was the reason for the Civil War. We need to teach that to kids when they are young, and be emphatic about it. Drag the lies into the light and watch them wither.
The next big one is that we need to teach the truth behind is that of the Confederate flag. We need to teach, in our schools, especially here in the South, that the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate, not heritage. That is another lie I heard at an informative time in my life and stuck with me for too, too long. Way too long. This lie hinges on the lie that the Civil War was not about slavery. So, teaching the truth about slavery and the Civil War are the first steps in combatting the lie of the Confederate flag. We teach the truth behind those to aspects then we can teach the truth about reconstruction and the rise of hate groups that adopted the flag. Teach about Jim Crow laws, and how it wasn’t until states started adopting Jim Crow laws that they decided to add the Confederate battle flag to their state flags. Teach how the Confederate flag is used by white supremacists the world over as a symbol of hate and oppression. The Confederate flag is all about hate. You want to celebrate Southern Heritage. Drink a Coke, go to Six Flags, listen to blues music or rock and roll (both southern creations, stemming from the oppression of African Americans), or anything that does not involve such a hateful symbol. It is a symbol of a time when there was a monetary value on the life of another human being and it was a cheap price. If slaves were expensive they would not have been forced to live in subhuman conditions, mutilated, killed, whipped, had their families torn apart, and the list of atrocities can keep going. That is the heritage you want to be proud of?
I think starting with these three lies, in terms of American History, would help put an end to other lies that are told to justify the oppression of African Americans. Such as the welfare queen and the absent African American father. We cannot tackle our modern problems without first addressing the lies that we tell, or allow to be told, to our children. We shouldn’t just limit ourselves to telling the truth only about African Americans. We, as Western European, have treated poorly, and continue to treat poorly, just about every ethnic group that lives in the United States. Even other Western Europeans. I’m looking at you Irish folk, have you forgotten NINNA?
I haven’t forgotten what it means. I also haven’t forgotten the fact that American Indians did not become citizens of the United States of America until 1927. We need to teach these facts in school. Show the good and the bad. We need to stop regulating groups of people to specific months. I think that is demeaning as hell. Together our story is the story of America. We should teach it together, teach the good, teach the bad, give credit where credit is due, and give blame where blame is due.