HINRICHS: Race issues result from avoidance of confrontation with past
Opinions Column: Unveiling the Truth
We are taught only a version of history in which the past and present achievements are unheard and unseen.
By no means should Black history end with the progress of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and by no means should Black History Month predominately focus on slavery, but it does provide an opportunity to reflect on the immensity of the institution and the continuation of its flawed foundational values.
A troubling study released by the Southern Poverty Law Center revealed that only 8 percent of high school seniors surveyed could identify slavery as the central cause of the Civil War.
As troubling as this is, the cause of the Civil War is also a question for the sitting president.
President Donald J. Trump said in May 2017, “People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”
Mississippi in its Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession stated, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery … There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union...”
A refusal to abolish slavery was why there was a Civil War.
In its stated cause of secession, Louisiana asserted, “The people of the slave holding States are bound together by the same necessity and determination to preserve African slavery.”
A determination to preserve slavery was why there was a Civil War.
General John Kelly, current chief of staff to Trump, disclosed a similar sentiment as his boss.
General Kelly described Robert E. Lee as an “honorable man,” and claimed “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”
A moral conscience does not exist or is inactive in those who support slavery. Historians today broadly agree the slaveholding aristocracy was irreconcilable with the nation’s commitment to liberty and equality, and decades of compromises between American statesmen only delayed an inevitable confrontation.
Immediately preceeding Black History Month, on Jan. 30, in an egregious use of grief and pain as props in a political performance that climaxed in an explicit criminalization of millions of individuals, Trump, in his State of the Union Address, paraded grieving parents of color whose children were murdered by the multiracial gang MS-13. It must be asserted that immigrants, documented and undocumented, are less likely to commit crime, especially violent crime, compared to native-born citizens, and immigration has been correlated to declining crime rates in communities.
In this instance, persons of color were, as they often are in white America’s constructed history, used as images to perpetuate an American deceit in an attempt to convince communities that immigrants are inherently dangerous.
In a systematic use of anti-intellectualism and reconcilationist history, Black history has been isolated to a few figures whose achievements have been diminished and condensed to a few digestible talking points. The history taught in schools that is presented sugarcoated and sterilized, in time, will only bring a bitter taste to the mouth of America.
The Teaching Tolerance project in 2014 graded all 50 states and the District of Columbia on how well their public schools taught the civil-rights era to students. Twenty states received a failing grade, and in five of those states — Alaska, Iowa, Maine, Oregon and Wyoming — civil-rights education was totally absent from state standards.
States must set higher expectations and standards for historical content, slavery must be connected to the American ideology of white supremacy and the past must be taught in connection with the present.
A study revealed that the driving force in the election of Trump was the fear of cultural displacement, which is based in the same white supremacy that was coupled with a racist dogma to justify slavery.
James Baldwin in “Black English: A Dishonest Argument” stated, “History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.”
Many of the issues we face today result from our avoidance of confrontation with our past.
King had wrote, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability.”
Change comes when we make it come. Change is not given — It is taken.
Luke Hinrichs is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year majoring in political science and economics. His column, “Unveiling the Truth,“ runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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