"You Can't Handle the Truth!"
"...black hands, black minds, and black talent have shaped this country and impacted every thread of this American fabric."
As I was thinking about my blog for this week, I obviously considered the fact that this is February, the month we study black history. It occurred to me that I saw something on social and mainstream media yesterday that I felt I wanted to write about. I saw that some parents and students from a Montessori school objected to being forced to study black history. It didn't take much imagination; I didn't think about it very long before concluding that the people who didn't want to study black history were white, more than likely affluent and that it really was more the parents than the students. In other words, the parents were the culprits. After all, many students would not want to study algebra and trigonometry if they had the option. Many might not want to subject themselves to physical science and chemistry either, but parents would quickly say to those students, no, this is part of the curriculum, and you, young man or young lady, will study it or else.
The more I thought about this situation, the more I realized that the problem is that we have not elevated the discussion about the history of black people to its proper place. Honestly, it is not black history; it's American history. When you think about it, if you're honest, you'll know that black people sailed to these shores before Christopher Columbus did, in 1492. When you're honest about it, you'll admit that in the mid-1500s, enslaved Africans helped the Spanish establish St. Augustine, Florida. Should you decide to read one, the history books will acknowledge that the first Africans to enter British North America at Jamestown, Virginia, came in 1619. So, there's never been a time when black folks were not a part of this country's history. Black people were a part of this country even before this was a country. The unfortunate thing is that for centuries now, the truth has not been told.
All the history books should be honest. They should be honest about the kidnapped Africans being brought to these shores, honest about the lifetimes of servitude to which my forefathers were subjected. Honest about the slave codes and other laws that prohibited Africans from being free, honest that black labor was essential in building what was soon to become the most robust economy on earth. History should be honest that had it not been for black slave labor, the United States would not be what it is today. Furthermore, history should be honest about the ongoing contributions that black folks are continuing to make in science, the arts, and culture. Honest enough to say, black hands, black minds, and black talent have shaped this country and impacted every thread of this American fabric.
So, I submit to you that it cannot merely be about studying black history. Still, it must be about studying American history and being truthful about the roles and the contributions that black people played and have made. Then we must tell the truth about the impact of chattel slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination, and racial prejudice and how all of that has come together to cripple and delay our progress.
"you may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies, you may trod me in the very dirt but still, like dust, I'll rise." Maya Angelou
Finally, however, a proper accounting, an accurate telling of the story, will say this, that even though you enslaved us, even though you beat us, hung us, robbed us, we are still here. Even though you made us the last hired, the first fired, and even though you've legislated that we were not fully human, three-fifths of a man or woman, in the words of Maya Angelou, "you may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies, you may trod me in the very dirt but still, like dust, I'll rise."
Every child, every citizen of this country, ought to be exposed to the truth, the truth about America, and the truth about being black in America.