Truly knowing your history

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Many times we watch and hear our children say things that may show a lack of deference or respect for those that came before them. In many cases their lack of concern or interest in hearing about the struggles and hardships their predecessors had to endure to persevere, seem to fall upon deaf ears. You have many children questioning the authenticity and veracity of the history parents and grandparents are trying to instill in them—hopefully to pass down to their children’s children. Too many times we have cushioned life for our children so that they are oblivious to feeling or relating to the nightmares we and those coming before us may have endured.

The way history is conveyed and comprehended may set the pattern for deep conscientious awareness in the way the listener responds and reacts to present situations affecting or surrounding life. The perception they have of what they are told may play a pivotal part of their sensitivity in relating to others, events or situations in their lives. The worst-case scenario would be apathy toward others different from us.

However, good or bad, history is vital in understanding the present to provide a compass for direction in the future. It is in acknowledging the wrongs and faults made in the past, we can guard against these demons resurfacings. We can also see the positive and good things that took place and to continue to build upon practices that promote peace, justice, and humanity. If we truly know our history and use it as a learning tool to make better decisions, we can become the world that we were meant to be.

Unfortunately, the tricky part of this seemingly easy objective to disperse history truthfully may differ from the motives of those telling the story. History can be dramatically altered, according to the parties divulging or writing the history—especially coming from oppressors opposed to people who are being oppressed. The oppressors usually have the economic, social, and political advantage, thus controlling the media and areas of communication going out to the masses. Often because of self-serving reasons those in a position to control what is being taught or written distort and even fabricate the truth. Their rationalization of how they see things is usually contradictory to the way those oppressed see things. You can see how the truth may be hidden, manipulated, or even lost.

Knowing the true history of the United States of America is not always a pretty picture. But honestly teaching the past can bring light on the socio/economic disparities associated with minorities, especially African Americans as compared to their White counterparts. Slavery, discrimination and racism, are realities affecting the Black psyche that needs to be addressed through meaningful dialogue to combat a sense of low self-esteem and self-hate found among many of the children of those oppressed. Telling the truth should not cause dissention and hate among Whites and Blacks. It should be an honest attempt to right a wrong and go forth truly practicing equality for all.

Maybe Kanye West, an African American, will understand why designing jackets projecting the Confederate flag is highly insensitive and degrading to his forefathers, whose blood, sweat and tears are the reasons he can be successfully be a rapper and entrepreneur. Maybe if Kanye really knew his history and truly respected his elders, he wouldn’t be so quick to try to prosper financially on Confederate apparel conjuring up so much pain and hurt among people that look like him.

I apologize to Kanye if I am missing the intent of what he is trying to do. But you cannot legitimize hate, which is what the Confederate flag means to so many. Maybe if we could feel the pain occurring under this symbol, we wouldn’t be so blasé or lackadaisical understanding why it is an anathema to be shunned. Not truly knowing our history makes our children immune and insensitive to our pain and even our struggle for equality. We must teach our children to embrace their history to move forward and not subtlety accept the injustices and discriminatory practices of yester-years by those who think we are unaware or asleep.

We cannot afford not to truly know our history. It is a quest that we all should personally tackle to know who we truly are. It is important that we, especially as African Americans, are privy to the courage, strength, and endurance of those coming before us—making it possible for us to persevere. Knowing who we truly are makes it impossible for others to define us by their terms. However, be cautious of some of the people put in a position to teach history, especially as it relates to your heritage. The truth can be altered or manipulated.