Back in the 90s there was talk everywhere of racial reconciliation. Bill McCartney took his message out on the road with the whole Promise Keepers movement. Preachers, evangelists everywhere were teaching it. And in the educational circles, multiculturalism was taking off like wildfire.
Yet alongside that , another movement, a very virulent one–was forming. There was an overwhelming backlash of skinhead types–like the late Timothy McVeigh, the convicted and executed Oklahoma City bomber of April 19, 1995. There were Aryan Nation groups cropping up seemingly everywhere, as well as groups known as the National Association for the Advancement of White People.
Also, there was also a disturbing trend towards revisionist history. As multiculturalism was spreading in our schools and colleges, there was a conservative backlash of teachers, educators, and conservative people who wanted to deny the existence of a slavery in America that was brutal, cruel, and sometimes deadly. Indeed, before the advent of movies like “Roots” (1977) and “Amistad” (1997), it was actually taught in our schools that slavery was not as bad as some blacks want to have us believe, and that masters were benign mostly, and some even loved their slaves as if they were their very own children. They deny creating a world where black children were banned from being taught to read (because they actually might figure out that they, too, were citizens with inalienable rights), their identities taken away, and at times beaten brutally for not conforming to Massa’s will. Sadly, I met one such person online. A kindly older gentleman, who, unfortunately was in school during the time that the truth was not fully being taught.
At the train station in my town is a plaque. On it it tells of land that the American Indians willingly gave up to the White Man back in the 19th century. I find this very doubtful, and very hard to believe. There are way too many accounts of how these Native Americans were forced off their land, the land they were on before these thieves invaded their land, claiming it as their own. They had the power, the gunfire, behind them.
Even more disturbingly, I have heard reports lately of people alive TODAY who don’t want to talk about the Jewish Holocaust, about Hitler’s gassing of thousands upon thousands of Jews because they looked different than Hitler liked, and because they were not like the “Master Race.” Simply to be cruel, he did this. And yet there are reports of people saying that this never happened, that people over the years have made up this story, or exaggerated it, to elicit sympathy.
The problem with that, school districts, history teachers, and principals–is that if we as educators are not careful, we will allow such lies to be perpetuated to our kids, and we will produce another generation of people who live in denial. It will also hamper the goal of multiculturalism, sensitivity to other races and their plights, and ultimate racial reconciliation because it creates a climate of distrust and unbelief between the races. It only adds to the problem of the hatred which resulted in an 88-year-old man shooting up a Holocaust museum this week.
You may say, “It’s not our responsibility! What does this have to do with anything? What can I do?” There is much you can do. You can start by making this a priority in ANY social studies, or History, curriculum that you make in teaching our kids. You can insist that the history books you buy for your classroom are up to date, and contain factual information and not someone else’s opinion.
One thing you can do to accomplish that is to check the publisher. Google their name, and check into their history this summer, before school starts. What is their reputation, what is their founder’s, or publisher’s, political bent? What axes do they have to grind? If your book is published, for example, by the Nights of Columbus, and you buy those books for your classroom, you can expect to teach history from their slant. They are the publishers, and they are the bankrollers. I don’t write this to give them praise, or to condemn them as an organisation. It is up to any intelligent person reading this to google for themselves what they stand for, and what they don’t believe.
Also, google the AUTHOR(S) of these books. Do a background check. If these historians happen to belong to organisations of a liberal or conservative nature, what you will be getting is THEIR version of history. Reject any books for your class–for our children–that seem to support a bias that will skewer history.
The other thing you can do as a school district is to support the efforts of local museums to supplement your lessons by arranging field trips for your history teachers to take their students there to see pictures of the abuse, the murder of innocents, etc., firsthand. These museums have newsreels, pictures, etc., that offer irrefutable evidence that things like that went on. The idea here is to cement it in their mind that the abuses of slavery, the Holocaust, etc, were in fact real. Also, assign them to books like “The Diary of Anne Frank.” If anyone is not convinced after reading that book…one must be pretty hardhearted.
Also, when a child asks, “Why did we wait so long to do anything about these abuses?” Be ready to have a suitable answer. Even if you have to do it one-on-one with the child, be sure that such conversations happen when they are supposed to.
It’s too late for Jim von Brunn. He is what he is, an ossified, cruel, 88-year-old man who has committed a vicious hate crime of staggering proportions. This paper, in fact, is not even about him, or the heinous act he committed. It is, instead about teaching respect for people of other races, and being familiar with their history. Agreed, that alone won’t combat the bigotry, and perhaps the denial, that led to that shooting. But it will plant a small seed, at the earliest possible juncture in life, an appreciation and respect for other races, will put a human face on them, letting them know that, although they are different, they are very much the same, experiencing the same hurts, the same pains, the same trials that we do.
And they deserve to have their story told as it happened, from the perspective of the persons, or group of people, who experienced it or had relatives who experienced these trials. For if the story is not told as it happened–it very well could happen again.
Educators, we are charged with the task of developing the character of the leaders of tomorrow. Certainly, the study of history is one way to do this. Learning about the late Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler, or a Benito Mussolini, can cause young people to never want to be like them should they become leaders.
We as a nation must learn to discuss mistakes we have made. Like allowing a dictator to run roughshod over Europe,leading to the deaths of many innocent Jews, many of them children like Anne Frank. We must be ready to tell our students that there was once a time in history when we allowed thousands of Blacks to come here, and that we brought them to our shores for the purpose of enslaving them, subjecting them to the most horrid conditions. This is just as much a part of our history as the fact that on November 4, 2008, we elected an African American President, Barack Hussein Obama, in fulfillment of a long-held dream by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We’ve come a long way as a nation, but we have much further to go. And it starts with parents and educators, the ones who shape the character of the generation to come.