What did you learn in your history books growing up?
How much of it was true? How much of it reflected the perspectives of the marginalized and disenfranchised?
What I remember learning about the founding of the United States is that the European explorers and Pilgrims arrived to a pristine wilderness inhabited by small pockets of Natives. It was a land ripe for the taking. I learned that massacres and land takeovers were justified, just a means to an end. How else would they have been able to build this great nation, after all?
But it wasn’t just that history that was told from the perspective of the colonizer. The way the story went, the enslaved Africans were generally happy to have been brought out of a wild and untamed continent. And yes, the institution of slavery was terrible but necessary and even beneficial for the enslaved.
For generations, the textbooks in schools have minimized the damage done to millions of people who are part of this land’s Indigenous peoples, the enslaved, and the non-European immigrants.
Subtly and overtly influential forces began to frame history in such a way that genocide, slavery, and oppression were sanitized, seen as an unfortunate by-product of a noble cause to build the country.
For years we haven’t told the truth. And that’s why today, our society doesn’t believe Native American groups when they say, “Negative Indian stereotypes – especially those perpetuated by sports mascots – affect the reputation and self-image of every single Native person and foster ongoing discrimination against tribal citizens.” (from National Congress of American Indians)
No, even when folks tell us that our actions are harmful, there is pushback against change. Take, for example, what happened recently in a town near me. A superintendent of a local school district gave this as the reason that their district would not be changing its “Indians” mascot: “Whether living, hunting or traveling through this area, Native Americans have been a part of Johnson County since before this area was named Johnson County,” Estes he said. “While there are many ways for us to recognize, remember and identify with our area’s history, one of the many ways we do this is by having the name Indians emblazoned across our school uniforms and buildings to show how proud we are of our local heritage.”
Do you buy it? I don’t know how it feels to you, but this seems disingenuous. It just another seemingly benevolent way to continue the status quo.
Is it any wonder that today some segments of our country need convincing that Black lives matter? Is it any wonder that we don’t see how we keep making the same mistakes from history? True unity hasn’t been possible because we have neglected the truth in favor of myths and hero fairy tales. Our imagination about the future has been stifled because we continue to believe lies about the past.
For decades, K-12 students have received whitewashed history. They have not gotten the full story of US History. At Woke Homeschooling, we’re out to empower parents to share with their children the truth about history. In recent years, there have been amazing books published for children and teens that begin to fill in the blanks. They present history from the perspective of those who for years have been silent in the history books. It’s an exciting time to be learning history. But it’s also a time to stay vigilant. It seems like every week, there’s a news story about banning books and school board fights about inclusive history curriculum.
While resisting and fighting against this ideology that seeks to maintain the status quo, we must do all we can to teach the younger generations to think critically about history. Some days it will feel like an uphill battle. But we must keep pushing. The stakes are too high.
What would happen if we heard everyone’s perspective? What would happen if, in evaluating historical events, we prioritized the values of justice and empathy vs. capitalistic ideas and goals?
Inclusive history and tackling hard topics are not only essential for Black families; it is for everyone. We all need to know the truths of history that have been buried, obscured, and white-washed. We already know the outcome of generations of avoiding. Let’s do it differently this time. Let’s tell the truth and see what happens.