Thanks to Stephanie DeYoung, I had a chance to see again how history is hidden. Like the person in the video at the top of the Wakelet shown below, I was ignorant of my U.S. history. I can claim it as a descendant of Norwegian immigrants. We are all ignorant of our history, there should be little surpise at it. But, like the person in the video embedded in the Wakelet collection below, I found myself asking, “How did this happen?” Who couldn’t help but be a bit self-reproachful?

Making Children Feel Bad? No.

It’s not about making you feel bad, it’s about allowing truths long smothered, buried, hidden to come to the surface. Think of when a lie that has held you prisoner is shown wrong. What relief. Now imagine that lie bathed in blood of your people, your ancestors, people you didn’t even realize had been enslaved, or maybe, that you did.

Clint Smith refers to this as “discovered ignorance.” You end up asking yourself questions…

“How could this have happened and I didn’t know about it? How could that happen?" (Source: Clint Smith, How the Word is Passed) Watching a recorded video of Condoleeza Rice on The View on Wednesday, 10/20/2021, I was struck by this idea that she sees critical race theory as a way to make little white children feel bad. “The way we’re talking about race is that it either seems so big that somehow white people now have to feel guilty for everything that happened in the past,” said Rice.

Rice continued that she didn’t feel this approach was to the benefit of anyone.

“I don’t think that’s very productive or Black people feel disempowered by race. I would like Black kids to be completely empowered to know they are beautiful in their Blackness, but in order to do that, I don’t have to make white kids feel bad for being white.

This presumes people in the present are now blameless, fully aware of their history. But that’s the problem. Some don’t know the history. It’s been distorted, omitted, and most are ignorant. It makes me wonder, are people of color the only ones who should be traumatized by the truth, or should everyone be traumatized by it because it happened? Of course, there are some who DO know and have worked actively to keep it hidden.

Is Anger Justified?

As someone of Norwegian (Swedish) and LatinX (Panamanian/Spanish) ancestry, I feel angry that history books lied and omitted the truth about what happened. As a child, I know I would have been horrified, traumatized by what happened. But a middle school or high school me would have been able to better understand. And, given what happened, every human child should be made to know what happened, not just those whose families suffered and remembered.

Genocides should have that effect on us. Whether it’s the Holocaust, the Arawak natives being eradicated by gold hungry, well-armed, diseased Europeans (hey, it’s in the histories), Kosovo genocide, Los desaparecidos, those stories should compel us to action…if only to give as true an account as possible of what happened.

As non-Indigenous people, we have the hard task of unlearning generations of massaged truths and outright lies to uncover the real truth, so we can properly begin and continue reconciliation.

The Canadian (and US) school systems heavily cleansed Indigenous history. If Indigenous history is brought up at all, white settlers are frequently painted as kind, generous traders. Similarly, Indigenous tribes are presented as passive, happy “natives” eager to trade.

The reality is unfortunately much more gruesome… there are a lot of facts merely swept under the rug by Western ideology. This is not about pushing guilt or making you sad. It’s about learning the key facts to better understand why truth and reconciliation is so important. (source)

This is not about pushing guilt or making you sad. It’s about understanding why truth and reconciliation are so important. Worth keeping in mind.

My History

As a little boy of privilege growing up in Panama, who could speak the language of power (English) and the language of family (Spanish), I should have known…

When you read or see the real histories, you can’t help but be disgusted and ashamed by what happened. But it is what happened, events over which one has no control now. It’s not like we could go back in time and tell Europeans, “Hey, what you’re going to do to a continent full of people is wrong, and that’s not allowable.”

Alternate History?

Makes you wonder what an alternate history would read like…I may have to look for that.

In the meantime, Whatif has this video. Check it out…makes you weep.

Get Over It, Already!

The more I read, the more irritated I get. As a person whose grandparents are Swedish immigrants to America, as white as can be, I don’t feel personally responsible about history. What I get angry about is the fact that history textbook authors and companies conspired to LIE to generations of Americans about WHAT HAPPENED. And, that it took me so long to realize that.

Now that I’m old, it seems pointless to get mad that I didn’t “Question everything,” as one of the people interviewed in Clint Smith’s book recommended. You can’t stay angry. You can’t feel bad forever. You have to accept that alongside the fictions and nonfictions, there is good and evil, crammed together in the hold of the ship.

Instead, you have to shine a light on the dark spaces, hidden from sight for so long. You have to offer others conflicting accounts of what happened, and invite them to change. You have to demand that those in power, who are actively working to cover things up, stop, even when it means they might lose everything.

Know Your History: Tulsa Race Massacre

In the meantime, check out this powerful Wakelet by Stephanie DeYoung. Watch Shelley Martin-Young share her truth about the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Critically Examining History

When you consider that knowing WHAT happened as a result of Europeans subjugating, enslaving people of color, is so horrific (it is), then you have to stop and ask, “Do I want my children to learn this part of our heritage? A heritage of oppression and destruction, of genocide?”

The answer is, “Yes, you bet. I don’t want my children to grow up NOT knowing their heritage includes murder, mayhem, and genocide.” But, we aren’t those people. That is, we aren’t those people if we decide not to perpetuate the attitudes that hold we are better than others simply because we are white. Or, that we deserve more because of where we came from.

When Columbus landed on the shores of any place, he claimed it. By what right? Force of arms. It’s no wonder that “God” is cited so often in the words of Spain. Consider this excerpt from Clint Smith’s book of how Spain handled things:

“I implore you to recognize the Church as a lady and in the name of the Pope take the King as lord of this land and obey his mandates. If you do not do it, I tell you that with the help of God I will enter powerfully against you all. I will make war everywhere and every way that I can. I will subject you to the yoke and obedience to the Church and to his majesty. I will take your women and children and make them slaves…the deaths and injuries that you will receive from here on will be your own fault and not that of his majesty nor of the gentlemen that accompany me.”

Clint Smith remarks about this:

Having thus satisfied their consciences by offering the Indians a chance to convert to Christianity, the Spaniards then felt free to do what they wanted with the people they had just “discovered.”

I mention this because if we could look around and say, “None of that brutality endures today, we’re different people,” we might be able to claim innocence. But we can’t. You have only to look at how Black people have been murdered, beaten, paralyzed, slain in their sleep, to realize that a society that condones this, that never launches an investigation, is carrying on today what Spaniards and other Europeans did upon arriving in America.

Would we all be better off if Europeans hadn’t landed on a richly populated land, then done horrible things to its peoples? I would like to think so.

Evangelical Christianity

This morning, before I began my day, I read this Salon piece by Chauncey Devega. Before she brings on the interview with the author of White Evangelical Racism (Anthea Butler), she makes this point:

In the Age of Trump, movement conservatism has metastasized or devolved into its purest form: American fascism, a form of religious politics taken to its most illogical extreme. Facts, truth and even the conception of reality itself are being replaced with lies, fictions, and fantasies that serve the American fascist movement and its leader.

As public opinion polls and other research have repeatedly shown, white right-wing Christians, especially Protestant evangelicals, have pledged their loyalty to Donald Trump and his movement. Many view him as a literal prophet or savior: His evident immorality has been rationalized as somehow necessary to his prophetic role.

In 2016, I remember asking myself, “How could anyone support someone who says and does those things?” Now, as I re-read these words in the dark of night, I realize that this brand of weaponized religion is no different than the words of the Spaniards as they prepared to take what they wanted.

But there is a difference, now, isn’t there? Now, the people of color have access to a lesson they had not learned well enough to defend themselves in 1492. They have an idea of how to best defend against religious fanatics who want to take whatever they want because they believe it is their right to do so.

If only we could find a way to tell the truth of what happened, reconcile, and move forward. But it is an unending struggle…millions dead, fresh blood added every season.

Rigorous Adherence to the Truth

Every human being struggles with the truth. Often, it is truth that is hidden from you, or truth that you have obscured to save yourself pain. Or truth you have buried because it is too horrible to contemplate. If we have a shovel to dig ourselves out from the pain truth brings, it is kindness and love innate to us, as much as the desire to do whatever is necessary to possess and dominate.

How would things change if those of European descent said, “Yes, we realize horrible things were done. Yes, we benefited, and continue to today, from all that happened. Let’s go down that road together. If I am penniless, dead by your vengeful hand, at least, I know that I did what was right in acknowledging my complicity in oppressing others today.”

Yeah, I have trouble with believing that’s possible. But some say, “Yes, we can."

All Nations Rise

I found this song powerful and hopeful. May you as well.