America, whose history is lacking?
“We believe he who has the power,” writes Yaa Gyasi in Back home. âHe’s the one who writes history. So when you study history you always have to ask yourself which story am I missing? Which voice has been removed so that this voice can be expressed? “
For too long, far too many people have believed in a sanitized history of America, filled with missing, bogus, and suppressed stories. Some rooted in denial, some in embarrassment, some in racism and prejudice.
The persistence of such accounts, uncorrected over centuries and decades, has resulted in the caste system we live in today, a system that not only elevates whiteness as a national standard, but also serves to elevate illusory narratives on a nation that was born not only in aspiration but also in sin. A nation supported by the erasure of the identity and humanity of its non-white peoples.
These are dangerous days. Never have so many people had so much access to so much information at their fingertips while being so resistant to any information that might contradict their prejudices. Days when some Americans deceitfully despise rationality and expertise and applaud vulgarity and bigotry, reject scientific advice and embrace charlatans.
These are dangerous days.
No rational person, I believe, could have foreseen that America today would be so troubled by irrationality rooted in racism and prejudice. An irrationality committed to preserving a false American identity so frightening that it poses an existential threat to our existence as a democracy, an irrationality determined to suppress the voices of peoples other than themselves.
Today, no one could have predicted that when the Taliban’s Education Minister, Molvi Noorullah Munir boasted: âYou see the mullahs and Taliban who are in power, do not have a doctorate, of mastery or even all, âhe would articulate a popular right-wing American trope adopted by millions of people so proud of their ignorance that not only are they ready to sacrifice loved ones on the altars of idolatry, but they are ready trying to overthrow our government through insurgency.
Not only has our history been written and rewritten for too long by those in power, but even our language has been so appropriate that whites not only want to define racism in their own way, but they want to dictate how victims of racism and discrimination must respond.
Appropriate language so that they can be the ones who define what is diverse, what equity is, what justice is. What definitions comfort them and protect their privilege.
Appropriate a language and a meaning so that they can be free to misquote, to divert and to belittle the voice of the Other.
“Prejudice,” Rabbi Alfred Bettleheim observed, “saves us from a painful boredom – trouble of thought.”
The truth is that even after the abolition, the Civil War, Jim Crow, Plessy v. Ferguson, the March on Washington, civil rights legislation and countless other acts, the basic structure of the institutions and organizations created by slavers and those who profited from the slave trade not only resisted change, but continues to advance programs to protect its dominant and false perception that America is a predominantly white and Christian nation.
Today, the Critical Race Theory (CRT) challenges the historic racial hierarchies embedded in American institutions and challenges the legitimacy of the power that sustains white America, not by teaching people that they are racist, but by exposing how deeply rooted racism is in all of our lives.
Rather than understanding that “an encounter with other cultures can only lead to openness if you can suspend the hypothesis of superiority, not seeing new worlds to be conquered, but new worlds to be respected”, like the late Mary Catherine Bateson, longtime Hancock, New A Hampshire resident wrote that opponents of the CRT strive to deny Americans understanding of America’s full promise, deny the existence of an expansive America.
Who is the story missing?
Americans like to think that we live in an “exceptional” nation, as many developed countries do, but the truth is that in recent years we have been the most exceptional in seeing attacks on our public square, attacks on the world. suffrage, attacks on artists and authors. of color struggling to share their unique visions, the visions of a great and diverse nation engendered by challenge, love and conflict.
While it was once common to deify the Founding Fathers and settlers who claimed this nation as visionaries who sought to create a nation based on values âârather than ethnicity or religion, the reality is that they are often below their own expressed suction values. .
They too were human.
Of the first 12 presidents, eight, as well as such luminaries as Supreme Court Justice John Marshall, owned and traded in enslaved peoples.
While it is true that for over 200 years such men have been celebrated as heroes, that does not mean that America’s “childbirth story” should not be revisited. âThe ability to combine commitment and skepticism,â Bateson wrote, âis essential to democracy,â and that is what we are called to do.
Whose voice is suppressed?
For too long America has suppressed the voices of the Other, the slaves, the dispossessed and the victims of genocide. Suppressed the horrors of pogroms and lynchings, committed environmental, economic, educational, political and cultural racism against minority communities and peoples of color, all without ever being fully blamed.
Consideration of such truths affirms, not diminishes, who we are.
These are dangerous days. Acknowledging such truths, listening to the missing and repressed, facing authoritarian challenges and facing threats to our democracy is essential to our survival, to our belief that all people are created equal.
(Robert Azzi is a photographer and writer who lives in Exeter. His reviews are archived at theotherazzi.wordpress.com.)