A Black History Moment
The white parents and administrators of Glen Allen High School were in the news recently, because some of them are asserting that a video played during a Black History Month presentation by VCU Associate Professor Ravi Perry was too controversial and too inappropriate to show to the high school students because the video promotes “white guilt” and made white students “feel” bad. The video in question is: Structural Discrimination: The Unequal Opportunity Race, created by the African American Policy Forum. I highly recommend that everyone watch this video before engaging in any critical discourse around the topic of historic and structural discrimination, or any conversation around “white guilt.” Viewing the video is imperative before considering its validity or effectiveness and the teaching and learning opportunities it may afford us in moving the conversation about race, equality and privilege forward. What is displayed in the video, in a very brief animated cartoon, is the plain and simple truth. The video isn’t hard-hitting or controversial. It isn’t an unfair or un-true reality. It is a simple “rudimentary display” of specific examples of the challenges faced by African Americans based on race and economic status throughout our national history.
Those who are in control of the narrative have “traditionally” told the American History story. The perspectives of “others” that are not a part of the dominant culture have been historically marginalized, omitted and ignored. This, too, is an undisputed fact. Today, we know there are many more voices that need to be acknowledged and many more histories that must be told as a part of the collective American story. White parents’ and white children’s comfort level with the truth can no longer dictate whether or not that truth is told.
The time has come for America to fully embrace her legacy with all of its tragic stories, unseemly chapters, contradictory ethics and hypocritical platitudes. Our nation has a conflicted and complicated past and it is built on bloody ground. This nation’s economic dominance in the world and proclaimed “exceptionalism” has been built upon stolen land and the free labor of enslaved Africans. That is the TRUTH and it is time for our children to know it! No it will not always make them “feel” good. Many of them may feel betrayed because of the “whitewashing” of history, as I did when I began to learn the truth about President Andrew Jackson’s villainous policies regarding Native American people like the Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears where 3,500 Cherokee died as they were forced to walk from Georgia to Oklahoma in the middle of the winter. The shame of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order #9066 that held over 122,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps without charges being filed and none of them ever being convicted of a crime. These two men were no longer the heroic presidents that I had always been taught to mindlessly celebrate. Because I was not given the truth, which gave me a more complete and honest context in which to place them, my understanding of history and its connection to current events and how we arrived here was seriously flawed.
Clear understanding of where you have been gives perspective and clarity to where you currently stand and a vision for how far you need to go. Regardless of white people’s fragility with regard to “feeling” bad about our national history, the TRUTH must be told. Your “feelings” are no more or less important than any other people’s “feelings” about race, class and privilege. Get over yourselves and deal with your “feelings”! We’ve been doing that since #4EVER!
Up Next Week: The Millennial Gap