In a past essay, we raised the troubling question: “What do we tell our children?” referring to the existence of the dark periods in American history, like slavery and the ”Trail of Tears” episode relating to Native Americans. We as parents of young schoolchildren found ourselves uncomfortably stuck on the sharp horns of a uniquely troubling, three-horned parental dilemma; the need to be truthful, the need to reinforce the lessons learned at school, and third, our knowledge of the dark periods of American history; the latter, not part of any school curriculum
The history of our Nation has, eternally and exclusively, been presented to young students in a rosy, “Golden Books,” or “Hallmark Cards” context, completely excising the dark periods. It is in later years that many children become aware that America has a less than a perfect score in its morally acceptable history; the reaction to such new awareness empirically varying with the moral component of the informational source and that of its socialized recipient.
In our case, as parents, we dealt with the uncomfortable dilemma, by simply telling our children, that the United States of America, despite its earned history of moral World leadership, experienced these specific dark periods in its past, which it would not, and legally could never, repeat; regarding which it has been continuously engaged in the ongoing process of amelioration.
A great deal of ignorant hot air has been circulated, by the Trump supporting, bigoted right-wing regarding the inartful named subject of “Critical Race Education,” to the alleged effect that such educational courses will promote further divisiveness, will paint the white race as shamefully bigoted, and will cause unrest resulting in black retaliative violence; none of which is logically supportable.
In order to develop a vaccination against Covid, the dangerous virus, initially, had to be recognized and scientifically understood. By applicable analogy, the recognition and objective study of the existence and nature of black enslavement is vital to its extinction. Right-thinking Americans will not be divided, rather, they will welcome such education; just as they would have ardently supported abolition and now efforts for universal equality. Only hard, obdurate bigots will be in opposition to such a program of enlightenment, intended upon the goal of universal equality and peace. Such teachings may prove to be a way for our Nation to atone for its past mistakes and express assurance of their permanent extinction.
It is possible that the term, “Critical Race Education,” was a somewhat foolish choice. The word “Critical” seems to suggest, ultimate accusation [and perhaps, shame and retribution] which is far from its true purposes viz., understanding and reconciliation. There are many less inciting names like, American Agriculture in 1700 to 1819, The Candid History of early America Agriculture, Racial Relations in Early America, or perhaps, a far better title, which omits reactive words of accusation.
Furthermore, the entire issue surrounding the inclusion of the subject “Critical Race Relations,” [or some more diplomatic name] has not been presented in the proper context. The inclusion of such studies, inarguably, would not entail the “addition” of a new subject to the High School or College teaching curriculum; more accurately presented, it would amount to the “restoration” of a significant subject which had been politically omitted from instruction in American History. To study history for the purpose of not repeating its mistakes, we must deal in reality and avoid the creation of fiction.
It is compellingly instructive, to us, that the Nation of South Africa has successfully undergone an Official Nationwide period of confession and reconciliation, relevant to its past institution of Apartheid, and likewise, the German Republic has officially recognized and admitted its Nation’s past atrocities during the Holocaust [in fact, it has enacted criminal legislation regarding the public expression of related bigotry]. The United States of America, the self-appointed and internationally recognized, avatar and guardian of liberty, could only further enhance its image, by doing likewise.