The “racial reckoning” that is now occurring in the nation, especially as a result of the public murder of George Floyd, has race and racism at the forefront of many of our minds. The recent commemoration of the Tulsa Massacre (1921) of which the majority in the nation were unaware, has Americans confused and frustrated as we become aware that we have been deprived of learning the true history of our country.
Why has honest and accurate history of the United States been kept from our history books? Why has the history that has been “invented” been replete with omissions and distortions? What is the fear of teaching honest and accurate American history?
The reasons for the fear of teaching honest and accurate American history are twofold.
First, the teaching of honest and accurate American history will expose the hypocrisy or the gap between the stated American ideals and the reality of life for many American citizens. The myth of American “exceptionality” with regard to a commitment to the rule of law and the extraordinary embrace of freedom and equality for all will be exposed. The mythology of America being a “landmark in human history,” that American society is defined by human liberty, justice and equality, and that America is the “greatest and most tolerant nation in history” will be refuted by the true teaching of history.
The honest and accurate teaching of American history will reveal the truth of community sanctioned racial terror like that of the “Red Summer of 1919,” the bloodiest day in the history of American elections--the Ocoee, Florida, November 2 massacre and the driving of black homeowners from the town, not to return for more than 60 years. Honest and accurate teaching of history will include the Elaine, Arkansas massacre and cover-up, and the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, of which most Americans are just learning, when the black community was firebombed from airplanes.
Yes, teaching an honest and accurate history of the nation’s treatment of its non-white citizens makes a mockery of the boast of America being a “bastion of freedom,” and it is hypocritical at best to scold other sovereign nations about their human rights violations.
The second reason for not teaching honest and accurate American history is equally crucial. If the true history of America is taught, it will outrightly refute the mythology of black inferiority and white superiority, which is part of the rationale for the enslavement of Africans and oppression of African Americans. The “true” American history will expose the creativity, ingenuity, and power of black Americans to educate their children and to build vibrant communities like Tulsa’s Black Wall Street. Honest and accurate teaching of American history will reveal that blacks are not irresponsible, childlike sub-humans needing white assistance to live adequate lives.
As we approach the 2020-2021 school year, parent groups across the country are being made fearful that their children learning honest and accurate history will make them hate themselves and America. School board members are being harassed, teachers fired and fleeing their positions. The reason for this chaos and fear is the smokescreen provided by debate and criticism of Critical Race Theory. To be clear, CRT and the honest and accurate teaching of American history are two very different animals. Critical Race Theory is just that, a “theory.” It was developed by law scholars and taught in law school and college courses that analyze the impact of racism on law and public policy. A theory is a supposition or a system of ideas to explain something. History on the other hand is the reporting and representation of observations of the past based upon historical evidence. True history presents “facts.” It is not invented for political reasons through omissions and distortions of real events.
As parents, administrators and school boards are faced with difficult decisions regarding the teaching of honest and accurate American history, it is crucial to understand these two core differences between CRT and the honest and accurate teaching of American history. First is the CRT belief that racism has always existed in society and will continue to exist. Historical records provide evidence that “whiteness” and subsequent racism were invented almost fifty years after the first Africans came to American shores. Second, CRT focuses on the perpetual “victimization” of people of color. True teaching of history records evidence of the triumphs of those opposed to racial oppression.
In the current divisive and political climate, it appears that it might become even more rather than less difficult to learn our true history. Parents, in particular, must ask these critical questions:
- What in true American history am I afraid that my child/children will learn?
- Why am I afraid of these truths?
- How will hiding rather than exposing my child/children to truth impact their ability to think critically and analyze events honestly?
- Am I comfortable if racial bullying occurs in my child/children’s school? Do I believe it should be ignored or addressed?
- In some school districts there are occurrences of backlash against diversity and equal opportunity efforts. Do I believe that past efforts to increase diversity and equity in my child’s/children’s school have damaged my child/children in any way? If so, how?