Among hikers and campers, and even among those who are simply logical thinkers, an old axiom provides the indisputable wisdom that, “If you don’t know where you are, you won’t know where you’re going.” Stated another way, “Knowing where you are is the first step in successfully achieving a goal or objective.” Anyone who has attempted land navigation in the outdoors understands the truth of these statements. If you look at a map without knowing where you are, it’s impossible to get to another location by design. In that circumstance, only dumb luck will get you where you want to go!
That same logic can be applied to provide a clear picture of the dilemma that many of our youth (and a distressing number of adults) suffer from. It is the foundation of the insidious plot of the likes of DeSantis, Youngkin, and scores of others who wish to mollify African Americans into a state of docile acquiescence by denying them a clear understanding of who they are and their complete story. “If you don’t know who you are, you’ll never know who you can be.” Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Father of Negro (Black) History, said it with different words, but with a clear understanding of that outcome.
Denying Black people an understanding of their identity is as old as our victimization in enslavement. It started on the docks of the Motherland where captives of many different tribes and languages were bound and kidnapped with the recognition that they could not offer organized resistance without a common language – a common identity. It worked then and its legacy has continued throughout our American experience.
Efforts to maintain divisiveness within the Black community offer no surprises. For decades, these efforts have been camouflaged with plausible deniability to refute claims of overt racism. Now, brazenly and without shame, leaders of the Republican party announce their true intent to undermine an entire community by erasing the history of a people.
I should not have to explain how enraged I was to learn that DeSantis’ Florida Board of Education had reached the erroneous determination that Black History had no “significant educational value.” If nothing else, the realities of the economic worth brought to a growing nation by a system of human enslavement should have educational value. There are other essays that delve more deeply into the economics of enslavement, but the outline at History.com (https://www.history.com/news/slavery-profitable-southern-economy) provides a clear picture of what we have meant to what is really important to this nation – the acquisition of wealth.
It has been offered by these white revisionists that the teaching of Black History should begin in the year 1970 for any substantive learning to occur. Those of us born in the 40s, 50s, and 60s are dramatically aware of the scope of our history which would be eliminated. Where then is Dr. King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, SCLC, the Black Panther Party, Mary McLeod Bethune, the Civil Rights Movement, Brown v. Board, Emmitt Till, the Tulsa Massacre, the Little Rock Nine, Charles Hamilton Houston, Daisy Bates, the thousands of nameless others who sacrificed life and limb for the freedoms denied by this country, and those who overcame what were designed to be insurmountable obstacles to freedom and success.
White America is caught in a web of irreconcilable differences. Their discomfort with the truth is an obvious nexus. While they profess a nation founded on principles of justice and equity, their history and current actions belie this notion. They claim that no student/person should be made to feel uncomfortable with history, but I believe that to be a deception. When the aim is the erasure of history, the real goal is the extermination of the spirit.
Dr. E. Faye Williams is President of The Dick Gregory Society (thedickgregorysociety.org; firstname.lastname@example.org) and President Emerita of the National Congress of Black Women