Once again there was a picture of Nikole Hannah-Jones on my news timeline. Every time I see a picture of her attached to a news story, my kneejerk response is “Who did she piss off now?” Her mere existence, it seems, pisses of conservatives. She is now being used as the poster child for Critical Race Theory.
For those that don’t know, and that seems to be a good portion of everyone, Critical Race Theory is an academic movement of civil rights scholars in the United States who seek to critically examine the law as it intersects with issues of race and to challenge mainstream liberal approaches to racial justice. It has been around more than 40 years and the core idea is that racism is a social construct, and that it is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies. It emerged out of a framework for legal analysis in the late 1970s and early 1980s created by legal scholars Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Richard Delgado, among others. This is a law school concept taught in law school.
The term is often used when someone means “anti-racism”, which encompasses a range of ideas and political actions meant to counter racial prejudice, systemic racism, and the oppression of specific racial groups. Anti-racism is usually structured around conscious efforts and deliberate actions to provide equal opportunities for all people on an individual and systemic level. It is also used when talking about teaching a non-Eurocentric curriculum in schools, usually by conservatives pissed their white child learned that white people have a history of oppressing everyone, especially Black people.
Casen in point, here we are, two years after the 1619 Project was put together by Nikole Hannah-Jones and people are still debating it. Is it revisionist history? Is it appropriate to teach? Is it anti-American? Is it making white kids feel bad? Schools have been threatened with the loss of federal funds if it is taught and a “patriotic” curriculum has been proposed to replace it. In other words, something that is Eurocentric and promotes nationalism and meritocracy.
There is nothing wrong with being proud of your country. A lot of good things have happened in the United States. People have been endless opportunities and freedoms here. However, the country also has a problematic history. Opposite sides of the same coin and all that. However, one can be proud of their country while acknowledging that horrible things have happened in it’s history.
I went to an all white school and was taught an Eurocentric history. Black History Month was never acknowledged. I was taught religion as part of history. We never touched on slavery, the Civil War was romanticized (I’m sorry, watching Gone with the Wind and The Blue and Grey is not teaching history), the Trail of Tears was never mentioned, and no one uttered the word “colonization.” Instead European explorers were hailed as heroes and the Founding Fathers exulted. There was no discussion of the role immigrants played in the history of the United States. We stood for the Pledge of Allegiance – an act that was supposed to promote nationalism and religious homogeny – and teachers rolled their eyes when the one Jewish kid in the class was missing because of some holiday that was never mentioned by name. We were not taught that the Civil War was fought over slavery. All of this and more is what is considered a patriotic education.
How is this helping anyone?
As I sat in Global Issues in Literature my first semester of university, I pretended to know what the professor was talking about when he mentioned the Middle Passage. I had to go home and look it up. I have learned more about history in my university literature classes than I did during my entire time in public school. I have learned bout slavery and things that happened as a direct result of it such as the Zong Massacre and the exploitation of Sara Bartman. I have come to understand things that have been mentioned in the news and never explained such as red lining. I have learned about the history of feminism and why it is important (the country was built by straight Protestant white men for straight Protestant white men as a racist patriarchy). I have learned about religions part in oppression, and that the Civil War was indeed fought over slavery.
Yes, I know, someone is going to send me hate me correcting me on my statement that the country was built by straight Protestant white men for straight Protestant white men as a racist patriarchy. You are going to have a hard time convincing me otherwise. Consider the following:
- Women were not allowed to vote until 1920
- It wasn’t until WWII that women really entered the workforce. Prior to then they were primarily teachers, secretaries, and nurses. They were expected to stay home and keep house and raise children.
- Doweries were paid by fathers to their daughters husbands. Men were expected to profit from marriage and therefore essentially paid someone to marry their daughter
- Engagement rings were originally a sign of ownership of a woman
- The taking of a man’s last name upon marriage dates back to the Norman Conquest and was used to erase a woman’s identity. It was an act of submission on the part of the woman because men now had legal and financial control over their wives. Women didn’t even have legal rights to their children or any recourse in the event of rape or domestic violence.
- White men owned black slaves and sought to prove that black people were inferior and needed to be enslaved because they were uncivilized. Not only that but they were considered better adapted to hard labor. Want to read about the history of scientific racism? I’ve got you covered.
- Following slavery there was the introduction of Jim Crow and the Tulsa Massacre.
I could go on for a while.
My point is, if we are really going to achieve equality for all and just not pay lip service to it, we have to change our racist society into one that not. If you think that minorities aren’t paid less than white people, you are disillusioned. Women still make less than men and the Senate doesn’t have a problem with this. If women are discriminated against, you can bet so are Blacks, Asians, Indians, and anyone else who doesn’t fit the description of “white male.” If anything, the Covid-19 pandemic has pointed out flaws in our societal infrastructure that need to be addressed.
Yet the focus is still on Nikole Hannah-Jones pointing out that America would not have succeeded as well as it did (if at all) as a country if it had not been for African slaves and that we are still dealing with the legacy of slavery in the form of systemic racism. For those that believe in meritocracy, how is someone supposed to work hard to make something of themselves when they are not given the same opportunities? Here is a good unbiased article on school funding that supports my point. Then there is the school to prison pipeline That is a post in itself. Things are far from equal for everyone.
We need to look to people like Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ibram X. Kendi who are trying to change this through education. Black history isn’t just for Black people. It’s part of the history of the United States that is over looked by the traditional Eurocentric history. We can not understand our society, events like the Black Lives Mater protests or Capital Riots, without understanding the full history, just not the parts someone deems patriotic, of the country. No one is trying to make white people feel bad for the exclusionary white history of the U.S. White people are in control of their own emotions including guilt. If someone feels guilt over what their ancestors did, that is on them. White men have been in charge of this country from its inception. They have had power for so long they don’t like challenges to it.
But I am just one of those “special snowflakes” with “shit for brains” according to John Lydon. At least I’m an educated snowflake.