#MNR: AMERICAN HISTORY Z
A few days ago, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the state’s public schools. What, exactly, is CRT? Well, it’s defined as an academic movement of civil rights scholars and activists in the United States who seek to critically examine the law as it intersects with issues of race and to challenge mainstream approaches to racial justice. The 1619 Project, developed by Nikole Hannah-Jones, writers from the The New York Times, and The New York Times Magazine, “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States’ national narrative.” So…why, exactly, are DeSantis, Senate Minority Leader Moscow Mitch McConnell, and other conservative leaders scurrying to block the teaching of what many see as contextual history? I’m sure you know why. But, before I approach the answer to this question, I’m going to take you back to a few specific dates in the history of America.
In August of 1619, the first African slaves were brought to Port Comfort, VA (Jamestown). If you’ve never been educated about the Middle Passage and the precise manner in which Africans were shackled and transported on slave ships, you are certainly in for a big surprise.
On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all American slaves. Of course, there was no phone, television, satellite, or internet, so there was a significant amount of time before the entire nation was informed, as affirmed by Juneteenth (June 19, 1865). Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, celebrates the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the US. It originated in Galveston, TX, as there was a scarcity of Union troops in the state. Enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation had been slow and inconsistent, to say the least.
Reconstruction (1865-1877) was a period in US history following the American Civil War that awarded newly freed slaves “similar” civil rights as those of other (white) citizens. It birthed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. If you’ve never read The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois, it’s an amazing read, particularly the chapter in which he speaks on Reconstruction from a unique perspective. He provides perspective that contextual facts alone cannot.
The relatively unknown and oft-forgotten (I wonder why) Compromise of 1877 was an unwritten deal (amongst Congress) that settled the highly disputed 1876 presidential election. It resulted in the federal government pulling the last troops out of the South, effectively ending Reconstruction. Through the compromise, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes was awarded the presidency over Democrat Samuel J. Tilden. By 1905, virtually all Black men were basically disenfranchised by state legislatures in all Southern states. Jim Crow, a set of state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern US and elsewhere within the country, was already in full effect mode, no Al B. Sure. These laws were enacted by white Southern Democrat-dominated state legislatures to disenfranchise and remove political and economic gains made by Black folk during Reconstruction.
On April 15, 1947, Jack Roosevelt Robinson broke the baseball color line when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers, eventually opening the floodgates for Black and Latin talent that had for decades because of skin color been relegated to the Negro and Caribbean Leagues. This basically broke the color barrier in American professional sports.
In May of 1954, the US Supreme Court unanimously decided for the plaintiffs (led by future Justice Thurgood Marshall) in the class-action lawsuit Brown v. the Board of Education (Topeka, KS) that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. “Separate but equal” (in theory) officially ended.
On July 2, 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. It outlawed Jim Crow. These laws were enforced until 1965.
I’VE JUST GIVEN YOU AN HISTORICALLY ACCURATE TIMELINE OF SLAVERY AND SEGREGATION IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. NONE OF THE INFORMATION GIVEN IS OPEN TO DEBATE, AS ALL OF THESE EVENTS ARE INALIENABLE FACTS.
(Now’s the time to roll that shit and light that shit. I’m in my bag today.)
So…on what planet is it fair to say that folk who were disenfranchised for damn near 400 years (345 to be exact; I did the math) are expected to have a fair chance in a race (pardon the pun and double entendre) that began centuries before they were allowed to enter and compete? I HAVEN’T MET A DEVIL YET THAT CAN GIVE ME AN ACCURATE ANSWER. And, unlike other ethnic groups, were given NOTHING to work with. Everything we gained in Reconstruction we lost after the Compromise. We weren’t given land. We weren’t given reparations. We weren’t given access to free higher education. We were given the expectation to keep up and compete.
The beauty of the industrial era was that advanced education wasn’t a prerequisite for making a decent living. A man could leave high school (diploma in hand or otherwise) and get a factory job fresh out the gates. He was given a livable salary and good benefits. After 40 years of hard work, he could retire with a full pension. In the meantime, his earnings (and the cost of higher education at the time) meant that ALL of his kids were afforded the opportunity to receive a higher education. This was the case for many Black folk in the immediate aftermath of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Automotive plants in Michigan were booming; textile plants in the south were as well. But the advancement of the computer eventually brought an end to the Industrial Era. And, up until the Regan presidency and Reaganomics, the middle class “working Joe" was able to take care of his family despite little to no education. Reaganomics steadily chipped away at middle class earnings, causing the wide disparity between it and the wealthy that thrives to this very day. Factories closed (think Detroit and South Boston, VA). Blue collar jobs evaporated (many were outsourced to Asia) from the American workforce and were replaced by jobs that required being educated and/or tech savvy. Suddenly, that good old high school diploma didn’t mean jack shit. And oh yeah…Regan felt that it was necessary to upend the welfare system in this country, as he and others spread the disgusting narrative that Blacks and other minorities were milking the system, intentionally having babies to boost benefits (think “welfare queen”). The aftermath saw the transition from Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) to Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF). This did heavy damage to the familial structure in Black America, as households weren’t allowed to receive benefits if there was a man in the house. The result was the greatest number of broken homes in Black America since the slave trade. It was all a systematic plot to disenfranchise Black folk and people of color. “Ironically,” urban streets on either coast were at the exact same time introduced to a much cheaper and much more addictive form of cocaine known as crack. Crack pulverized neighborhoods, whether through dependency or “trade wars.” Were we responsible for the violence caused by crack? Well…that’s both yes and no. Yes, we did, in large part, kill ourselves because of addiction and competition. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but the coca plant doesn’t grow in this part of the world. And, unless I’m mistaken, we don’t have the means to import it from other continents. So, tell me, who did what to whom (emoji with the hand on chin)?
Conservatives don’t want CRT taught in public schools because thorough, accurate, and contextual facts will enlighten ALL learners to the PAST and PRESENT evils of Amerikkka, endangering the FUTURE of whitewashing. Simple and plain.
Candidly, I’ve never read a single word from the 1619 Project. Why? Because I have knowledge of self and I was taught accurate, contextual history from jump. It didn’t come from public schools. They didn’t teach me shit about contextual American history. My education began AT HOME with my grandmother Mary Ruth Marable Warren. She and my gpa Archie Gardner Warren Sr. lit a fire within that burnt so fervently that, from a young age, I didn’t need anyone to coerce me or point me in a particular direction to learn about me and mine. I did that on my own.
I don’t give a single fuck about the 1619 Project, with all due respect to Ms. Hannah-Jones. That’s no slight to that queen or the material she helped to develop. I said that because I have stressed forever that history should be first and predominantly taught IN-HOUSE. Parents and grandparents should be a Black child’s first history teacher. Damn near all of us came through public schools since desegregation. If you didn’t realize that those schools taught us the bare minimum, you must be the dumbest MF since Ray Carruth’s silly, murderous ass. You should know off rip from how you were taught that these schools aren’t teaching your child shit about her or his history. Black history…MLK, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Michael Jackson, slavery was kinda bad, yadda, yadda, yadda…the end. That’s what we were “taught.” Y’all know better. So do better. Please don’t depend on red OR blue states to teach your child contextual history. And if you don’t know enough to teach them, educate your damn selves. Or bring them to me. I got y’all. All jokes aside. Just pay me how you pay the white man for a job. APPLIED knowledge is power. Each one teach one (3 BLACK FIST EMOJIS).
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