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The hardest course I ever took was titled “History and Historians;” it was required for my degree, and it was extremely intense. The coursework was a comparative lesson on how different cultures view historical events. History was not as simple as a record of facts but rather a collection of perspectives of said facts, and those facts were still vulnerable to the particular writing styles and storytelling methods of specific cultures.
History was about facts just as much as it was about who was recounting them.
In a move on brand for a racist demagogue, DeSantis and friends are targeting textbooks, courses, and anything that promotes diversity, equity and inclusion, on any education level, and essentially whitewashing any history of America’s racism to Blacks.
In a story originally published by the New York Times, schoolbook publisher Studies Weekly took its current elementary school lesson on Rosa Parks, “The law said African Americans had to give up their seats on the bus if a white person wanted to sit down.” That version was later changed to, “She was told to move to a different seat because of the color of her skin” and ultimately rewritten as “she was told to move to a different seat.”
Why is it that only white rebellions are considered venerable? Whitewashing Rosa Parks’ refusal to get out of her seat because of blatant racism makes it seem like Black people’s complaints were nothing more than mere inconveniences rather than actual cruel discrimination and racial abuse. Martin Luther King’s legacy has seen itself whitewashed over time with the usurpation of his image and his “I Have A Dream,” speech. Many far-right Republicans still evoke his likeness and cherry-pick his words every cold January without speaking on why he is no longer able to speak for himself.
Black people do not exist in an ahistorical vacuum of white comfort.
After facing understandable backlash, Studies Weekly responded on their website that not only were actions taken against the responsible parties, but their letter did explain that the Florida law, House Bill 7, “forbids anything that encourages students to believe any group is inherently racist, implies a person can be considered oppressed because of their race, or infers that one should feel guilty because of actions committed by members of their same race.” While the company states that its team members “overreacted,” in compliance of the law, the law should not even be in place. If learning about racism is bad, then that must mean that racism is bad, and seeing that there are no laws that specifically target hate speech to Black people, it is hard to logically adjust to laws that outlaw talking about the racism that has targeted Black people in the past.
It seems that when it comes to children’s education, the second amendment is much more protected than the first, and that includes publishers’ rights to print facts in textbooks.
The same group of people who support the whitewashing of history books because learning about Black history is somehow divisive, don’t seem to mind the waving of a flag that represents treason or the captivity of those Black people and the abuse of their descendants. When white people rebel, even against their own nation, it is seen as admirable; even when dressing like Natives so as to not be found out, in an act I would surely consider cowardice, they are marked in history books under braveness. Only white men’s anger is seen as noteworthy, necessary and approved, but a white man’s fear, fear of his own past, fear of the recklessness of his own demons, and the demons of the men whose name he bears, will be hushed just as swiftly as the screams they conjured in their unprovoked violence.
A history so shameful that they refuse to be shamed by it.
For a country built on the eschewing of tyranny, it has a way of making Black revolutionaries feel like they should be quiet. The demographic most heavily invested in the protection of the second amendment always seems to find fault with Black people’s stories or their exercise of the first.
What I do know is that you don’t need a college history class to teach you that a history, no matter how violent, did not occur simply because no one read about it.