I write to you today because I happened to watch your segment with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. Before I comment on your appearance, I would like to tell you a little about me. While I live in Orange County, California, home will always be the city of my birth, Washington, D.C. I am a writer and a mom. I’ve cared deeply about race and race relations in our country and have strived to ensure that my young child’s education is as well-rounded and ethical as possible. I am proud to say that, at 17, she is aware and interested in the world around her, including current events and all things related to race, tolerance, and equality. Like me, she is deeply disgusted with the retro-racial society we find ourselves living in. That is how she is now. It wasn’t always so.
Soon after we began homeschooling, I noticed that she had picked up on biases during the short time she attended preschool and kindergarten. It took years to undo that damage. Today, she is rounding out her education with a robust college curriculum of history of racism, African American music appreciation and Black feminism. But that rounding out is because, like too few of her peers in college, she exercised her choice in picking these classes from among all kinds of subjects that could have satisfied the requirements she needed to fill. None of what she is learning now is a part of the curriculum all of our children learn in our public school systems, even though it should be. As her teacher, I supplemented our state curriculum guidelines, which as you probably know has a very heavy slant towards the Western European, and included topics in world history, comparative religion, philosophy and, instead of just that one month, made sure Black studies were incorporated in her reading and writing on a regular basis.
So, when, at the start of your segment you described how happy you were to have had the opportunity to be in Selma and learned so many things you did not previously know, it made me hopeful that, like my daughter and her fellow university classmates, you too realized how you and all American children are robbed not only of a well-rounded education, but self-knowledge and a deep mutual understanding through years of learning about the history and culture of all of the people who make up the United States of America.
When talk turned to America’s current not post-racial status – I prefer to refer to it as retro-racial – I was dismayed to hear:
“Let’s forget about the past as much as we can and let’s move from where we are now”
get past your lips. I was sure you understood the importance and significance of knowing one’s history, not only from the Afro-centric perspective, but from the American perspective. If you know about yourself and I know about you and our common history together as a nation, then chances are we can work towards truth and reconciliation. I was shocked that you don’t connect the increasing ignorance of historical facts with the resurgence of intolerance, violence and the deepening of inequality. We are where we are, again, because we know less about ourselves and each other, and we are re-segregating. Telling white people to forget about the past gives them the perfect cover to repeat it.
You then said:
“How can we help each other? Can you try to help us because we are going to try to help ourselves, too.”
Here is where things get complicated. James Baldwin, one of America’s greatest writers and thinkers, wrote:
“If we – and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others – do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world”
― James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
Baldwin also wrote:
“Education is indoctrination if you’re white – subjugation if you’re black.”
Baldwin left us all with a clear, incisive analysis of American society, and a master plan to achieve the vision you seemed to describe. The only difference, however, is that the roles, as he assigned them, do not include masking the truth, but facing and then basking in it. That truth isn’t about bootstraps or self-improvement. It isn’t about less negativity on the part of Blacks. It most certainly isn’t about less reminders for whites. It’s about knowing, understanding, and finally facing a truth that, while painful, frees all.
Common, you see, people like me need help from people like you, educating, reminding, acting as bridges to and gathering together the relatively conscious among us so we may, as Baldwin put it, handful that we are, finally end the racial nightmare and achieve a country in which race and class no longer can be pitted against each other; a nation that just will not accept that relative success can only come at the expense of others.
Statements were curated, in part, from the HuffingtonPost