Do You Even know what the Middle Passage is?
Did you know the arrival of 20 Angolans in August of 1619 arrived 1 full year before the Puritans landed at Plymouth Rock and would spark race based slavery that would define race relations for another 400 years and we are still trying reconcile this in American History?
Do you know who Derek Albert Bell Jr. and what is critical race theory?
Why such a visceral reaction to the Pulitzer Prize Winning 1619 Project and why critical race theory is being banned from American Classrooms?
I blame my public education in the many gaps in my knowledge of American History. My family life was based on survival any extra was not an option. Maybe I would have received a more expansive and robust knowledge of American History if Mr. Fuller, the high school AP teacher from hell, didn’t scare me from that endeavor. I do remember my vague knowledge of the Middle Passage was shaped by watching Roots as a kid and then reading that toome in the 4th grade (By the by, if anyone has a handle on a first edition of Roots by Alex Haley in good condition with original dust jacket, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org I will greatly appreciate it!)
But I would not know of the significance of August 1619 really until 2019 when I was hired to write an article for a African American Base On-line Store. I grew up in Hampton Roads not knowing the history of this epic event at our shores. We were taught basic and a whitewashed history of this country with any deviation from this idealistic curriculum being up to the individual or individual family learning more. Slavery and racism was just so nebulous. I knew on an instinctive level that it existed but not the enduring destructive nature of it in our society.
I didn’t find out about critical race theory until the TN Legislature banned the teaching of it in public schools in 2020-2021 because I think on a grander scale, the public school system, especially in the Southeast, maybe a bit too obtuse to teach this complicated theory fairly. This really is a critical analysis of the part of the US legal system perpetuating racism and it is a combination of views from several different minority groups and marginalized people. This key CRT concept of intersectionality—the way in which different forms of inequality and identity are affected by interconnections of race, class, gender and disability. Scholars of CRT view race as a social construct biological basis. CRT scholars argue that the idea of race advances the interests of white people at the expense of people of color, and that the liberal notion of U.S. law as “neutral” plays a significant role in maintaining a racially unjust social order, where formally color-blind laws continue to have racially discriminatory outcomes.
This concept is not new. It has been around and argued since the 1970s and now since the publication of the 1619 project and the murder of Breanna Taylor, George Floyd and the protests that follow we are having a willful suppression of free thought and differing perspective that is leading to rampant book banning and alteration of public school curriculum under the guise of patriotism. You can be a patriot and demand the truth. And you shouldn’t be censored when your perspective is not the same or even a tame version of whatever story was told until now.
The 1619 Project is a collection of scholar reviewed essays and poems with true historical references from the perspective of an African American scholar, descendant of Middle Passage Survivor, from the perspective of the oppressed. Combining 400 years of history, omitted from the widely accepted public school view.
The article and now the book, was bound to tick off every right wing, white supremacist, who wants everyone to drink The Kool-Aide of the perfect American Ideal to exist in spite of inequality and uncertainty. It starts with the US Original Lie, Declaration of Independence and Preamble of the Constitution when we held an entire group in slavery because of the color of their skin and enacted a battery of laws to support it. And let us be for real, it wasn’t so much that the origin story of the nation was questioned, it was who was doing the questioning a rubanesque African American woman, in a Global newspaper The New York Times in the time of a sociopathic White House who wanted to return the US to 1950s. That 1776 Paper Response was a hastily thrown together joke to debunk the 1619 Project.
The 1619 Project is not so much a revisionist history of this country, it is a refreshing perspective of the origins of the country laws, policies that impact us from today from a marginalized group. If anything it should spark more research and discussion before banned and covered up. I know I will be reading more. Will it change my opinion? Maybe, but not until I get all the information and make and informed decision. Because that is what reasonable grown folks do. Before you write books and articles to debunk or deride a momentous piece of historical literature, first read it, research and understand it. Because an unintended effect of banning books on critical race theory and the 1619 project is protest blog posts and podcasts dedicated to talking about the very thing you want to go away. Also the more people that know and now understand will hold you accountable on your obtuseness.
Just because you won’t recognize racism and white privilege exist doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. What you should be asking, why does a work of literature make you feel bad because you are white? And what do I have to change or no longer do to stop those feelings? That is real next-level adulting, any you wanting to remain in your privilege, not accountable and gullible, is not possible.
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