Our nation recently celebrated the anniversary of its declaration of independence from Great Britain. During a televised Capitol Fourth of July celebration also held in commemoration of Juneteenth (the anniversary of the final emancipation of all enslaved African Americans), I listened to a performance of the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing." To my recollection, this song was dubbed the "Black National Anthem." A quick Google search confirmed my suspicion; however, I also learned that the anthem not only contains prose specific to the struggles of enslaved Blacks, but it was also written to celebrate the anniversary of President Lincoln's birthday in 1905.
During this nation's recent period of heightened racial awareness and reckoning, suppressed African American history like that of the Tulsa, Oklahoma Massacre (of which I previously had no knowledge) has come to the fore. Sadly, public acknowledgement of the brutality of our nation's past has become mired in heated political divisiveness. Some Americans see an accurate historical accounting as a personal affront to their sensibilities. I can assure you that they are not alone in their feelings of reproach. The legacy of slavery is as painful for Black Americans as is the wholesale discounting of their ancestors' contributions to the development of our nation.
The amount of discord over a fair and accurate rendering of African American history reflects the impact of a pervasive whitewashing of said history. No matter how sanitized our tools of education, however, the reality of our past cannot be erased. Other atrocities like plagues, wars, and genocides have been visited upon civilizations since the beginning of time. As painful as that history is, we have learned from it.
When did we decide that it was proper to teach only that history which does not offend the feelings of one segment of our population, particularly given that its long-term ramifications serve as its reminder day in and day out? To reconcile the discord and animus that now run rampant, we must acknowledge our history in all its shortcomings and glory. And we need more freedom to expose and write about that history. We can't be in the business of penalizing educators for speaking truth.
We're all in this together. Armed with factual knowledge, maybe we can declare our independence from hatred and learn to love again!