True Black history has been covered up

By Sean Joyce

While history is based upon fact, it must always be remembered that history doesn’t write itself. While this might seem like an obvious statement, it is one of the most ignored facts in history. Because the fact is, writing history is like writing a newspaper: scholars of the time decide what will, in fact, be widely distributed and recorded in history, as well as from what perspective history shall be told. During our lecture from Dr. Jonathan Smith, a Black professor of African American Studies at Saint Louis University, we explored the narrative with which white scholars have chosen to indoctrinate America’s children.

It was an extremely enlightening experience to see both the African American narrative from a Black perspective, as well as experience the reactions of my Black Cultural Leadership classmates to their own history. The lecture constantly focused on the point that the Black narrative had been constantly minimalized and suppressed by white scholars, based on the belief that Blacks had an unimportant history. What I found extremely interesting was the fact that even though our generation is now taught a much stronger history of Black Americans, their identity as an historically-important people still struggles to ingrain itself in the young people of today’s America. When asked of the great accomplishments of the nation of Egypt, the country was identified not as African but as Middle Eastern. Dr. Smith was astonished to see the lack of outrage from the young African Americans in the room at the suppression of their own culture and its importance. As a Jewish kid watching Black history be told from a Black history professor to Black students, it was fascinating to see the completely different perspectives and passions generated by the older generation and the youth. In my opinion, the most striking thing I learned about was the deliberate ghettoization of Black culture in America by its predominately white population. And while this fact is astonishing, just as surprising is the fact that this impact many decades later still largely affects the way Blacks are educated and socialized about their own culture today.

Another area that we focused on in our Sunday meeting was the pledges. At our first retreat we all pledged to do various acts in order to enact change in the environments around us such as our families and schools. Our pledges varied from stopping discriminatory language like the word “gay,” to simply being more open and talking to people we had never talked to before. Many students met with success when they widened the range of people they interacted with. At one school a successful mix it up day was run at lunch, which enabled people to sit with different people. At another school someone just chose to go over and sit with a very isolated group at lunch. The common factor in success was always having a base of a few firm allies to strengthen students resolve and force.

However, many students were not successful in stopping discrimination. We discovered first hand that some people simply will not, or cannot, change. The most difficult thing learned was that some people are so ingrained in hateful habits, or simply apathetic, that there is absolutely no way to change these people or show them the error of their ways. The hardest lesson learned through the pledge process was not how to facilitate change; but rather how to choose the people who can be changed, and more importantly, leave behind those who cannot.

Sean Joyce is a junior at Ladue Horton Watkins High School and participant in Cultural Leadership.

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