What History Class Did You Fail?


Every time I’m involved in some social media discussion, I hear so much completely inaccurate information being repeated time and again. Today, someone claimed that people in South Africa would have “Black Privilege”, completely ignorant of the long history of violent white supremacy that ended less than 30 years ago. Additionally, way too many people are ignorant of Jim Crow, and all the things that led up to and followed the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement.

Ignoring the history of race relations is the foundation of a generation of future racists. This complete ignorance of the past, this white-washing, this idea that “racism ended in 1964 with the Civil Rights Act”, these ideas are the start of a belief that the current race relation problem is “reverse racism”: White people being discriminated against. And since anti-Black racism is “over”, all the crime statistics that show problems disproportionately affecting Black people must mean that Black people are “just naturally like that.”

Curiously, these people are always well-“informed” about the history of slavery world-wide, but never about how the Americas changed all that, too. Indentured servitude is not chattel slavery, but the distinction is both lost and meaningless to those who want to believe that global racism ended with the abolition of slavery in the US. And again, the bleaching of history: The Civil War was about state’s rights, despite the libraries of information written at the time on the topic about the war’s aims.

It has taken me mere months of casual perusal to learn the things that I know, or, more accurately, probe the vastness of the chasm that is my ignorance. With all the current news about racial violence, what hope for change can there be if we aren’t all putting in this minimum amount of effort to understand our fellow humans?