Isn’t this the theme of 2020?
Last night, Mr T and I watched The Vote, about women’s suffrage.
All I knew before we started was that 100 years ago, women in the US won the right to vote and blah blah blah.
I did not know women had been arrested.
I did not know that women had been beaten.
I did not know that women had been force fed in jail, tubes shoved down their throats against their will.
I did not know about the sabatoge.
I did not know about the bombs.
I did not know about the hunger strikes.
I did not know about the awful racism in the suffrage movement – that many white women did not want to ally with Black women.
I didn’t know so many things.
I did not know until I was out of college that the US had put US citizens of Japanese ancestry in prison camps during WWII. Had stolen their property. Had treated them horribly.
I did not know how brutally and unfairly Native Americans were treated. And are still treated.
And of course I did not know about all the systemic racism, past and present. I have talked about that before, but I have not talked about how angry I am that I learned none of this in school.
Why wasn’t this part of the history curriculum when I was in school?
Why were we not taught about any of this – racism, lynching, internment camps, sexism, genocide – in school?
Yeah I know that’s a stupid question.
It’s for the same reason that in 7th grade Texas history, we were taught that the Mexicans were bad and the Texans were noble at the Alamo.
We were not taught the part that one of the reasons the Texans were fighting for independence was because Mexico had abolished slavery and the Texans wanted to keep slavery.
Fighting for independence from oppression is one thing.
Fighting to oppress is another.
It would be kind of like if the Confederacy had won the war and students were taught that Robert E Lee was noble and there were high schools named after him and there were statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest and military bases were named after Confederate generals and ordinary people named their little boys “Jefferson Dav—
The Confederacy lost the war but those things still happened.
How did we ever get to the point where we glorify the losers from a war they fought to maintain slavery?
How did we get to the point where there are people in the US who think it’s OK to fly the flag of the Confederacy, a nation that the US defeated in war, a group of traitors who tried to secede from the US to start their own country for the sole purpose of maintaining the morally indefensible practice of enslaving other human beings?
At least they get it right in the Civil War burying grounds.
At least they get it right at Shiloh. I just googled and discovered that there are Confederate dead buried at Arlington? And apparently recognized?
At Shiloh, the Confederate dead are in their own section that the US Parks Service does not maintain.
I asked a ranger about it and he answered that yeah, they were enemy soldiers and I realized OF COURSE.
Why should the US pay to maintain the graves of traitors?
How are we ever supposed to understand our history if we are lied to?
Let me get to my point, which is,
We have to stop teaching the myths and teach the truth.
If we don’t know our true history, how are we ever supposed to reach the ideals on which this country was founded?
We need to know that the founders’ intentions really weren’t for everyone.
(That doesn’t mean we are going to stick with their intentions – this is not the place for originalism.)
We need to know that when they said “all men are created equal,” they really meant all white men, not all human beings of every color.
We need to know how people who were not white men of property were treated.
We need to know that we, as a country, have done horrible things.
We need to figure out how to apologize for these things and make it right with the people who have suffered.
We need to figure out how to make it better in the future.
I am angry that I was not taught these things in school, but I am also angry at myself for not learning on my own.
So that’s what I’m doing now. I am reading and watching and trying to understand.
These are the books and DVDs on my shelf now.
- The Vote
- Ain’t I a woman : Black women and feminism, bell hooks
- A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft
- Assata: A Biography, Assata Shakur
- Caste, Isabel Wilkerson
- They were her property : white women as slave owners in the American South, Stephanie Jones-Rogers
- Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde
- John Lewis: Get In The Way
- Mama Flora’s Famiy, Alex Haley
- Dying of whiteness : how the politics of racial resentment is killing America’s heartland, Jonathan Metzl
What should I add to this list? What else should I do?