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Should We All Have Racial Amnesia? The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Swirl

June 19, 2010

History can be a distasteful thing; and frankly I don’t like dealing with anything distasteful unless its vodka.  That’s why me and the hubster can NEVER watch Roots together.  Crap like that puts me in an “I hate white people!” mood, which is not really healthy since Im married to one.   I give him the side eye during those Kunta Kinte whipping scenes and then he looks back, befuddled.  I guess I can’t blame him–his grandparents didn’t touch American soil until the early 1900’s.  Until then, his mom’s side was stuffing their faces with potato balls and sauerkraut  in Germany while his dad’s people where fighting over tickets for Chopin in Poland.  My only comeback: “Well, your people picked Hitler!” But then it gets complicated, because the other half of him is Polish and they had their share of atrocities put upon them during WWII, so really, I can only be mad at half of him, and then feel sorry for the other half, so it cancels everything out.

Back to history.  Truly it is hard to look at painful things that have occurred during slavery and segregation.   So if I ask a teenager to put down his iPod for a sec to tell me if he knows about Jim Crow and replies, “Isn’t he a drummer from that one  band?”  my first reaction is to think homeschooling is totally back on the table.  But then, I wonder…is that ignorance all bad?

Guest blogger, ‘Bill Drew’ Aabaakawad, a self-described secular humanist white guy with an interest in social justice, black women’s empowerment, and all-around lover of the melanin-rich, poses the question–is it better to remember…or forget?

———————-

I have a dream too, much like Dr. King’s. In my version, Black & White citizens work through understanding & overcoming our differences and the history that produced them. I imagine White America finally coming to terms with their full role in creating our country’s defining tragedy, and Black America, having finally been seen, being able to forgive. Healing, in other words. Perhaps this is also what you have hoped for too. Is this too much to ask?

As much as the thousands of racial bloggers and writers have worked for decades toward these goals, it is not their demographic, middle-aged intellectuals, that is reconciling. The most successful populations in America at Black/White interaction are adolescents and young adults. Our current black and white youth are connecting, befriending and romancing each other across the color line. But theirs has not been a story of overcoming differences and dealing with shared history. In fact, our youngest people usually aggressively deny that there are any differences, or any history to be interested in. It is axiomatic in their ideology that “we are all the same under the skin”. This “End of History” narrative offends my personal dream.

Resolution or Absolution? Reconciliation or Nevermind?

I know where my instincts are on this, but should they be trusted? The “Great Forgetting” strategy is, after all, successful. Young people are dispensing with racism and leading the way … beyond Black & White.

Has America simply produced more history than it can consume?

Please, state your opinions and discuss.

Wishing you all progress …

— Aaby

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51 Comments leave one →
  1. jaymeson jiles permalink
    June 19, 2010 9:14 pm

    i like your intro. i was actually having a conversation with someone the other day about the luxury of hiding white “ethnicity.” germans and the polish are (were?) white ethnic groups, but here in america, he will not be judged here (other than wisecracks about polish or german) by their heritage. his skin color is enough to be accepted and i have yet to even had to ask a white person (unless their name is obvious) “what is your ethnicity.” maybe i should. because once you begin the discussions about race, it is revealed that “i’m actually half irish, half jewish.” and it’s almost said as a relief or jokingly “yeah, i’m german. so sue me.” but it doesn’t seem to be as shocking as when i come into an interview and they see me – in all my chocolate wonder for the first time. no announcement is necessary. POC have do not have that luxury and even though i do have Native American blood running through my veins, i will check black as your husband will check “white” unless he has to define it more clearly. i have yet to see any applications or surveys that break it down to that degree. so it was funny to read your dilemma in watching “Roots” with your husband while bearing in mind his heritage and during which time his parents lived and the time he came up.

    which brings me to Bill Drew’s question about the fantasy of putting history behind us and “look to the children” movement. if every white person and every person of color had the kind of balance, mutual CULTURAL respect, and willingness to look beyond surface as you and your husband obviously do, we may be able to have discussion about history, which may lead into understanding the other’s story. the problem, as you know, we don’t live in that kind of society. the u.s. is the the main (if not only) country that is , as i heard someone say today, “built on a racial construct.” other countries are more concerned with class or gender or even parts of the country. in some countries, there is that light-vs-dark tension, but that still goes to class. after the economics part of Afrikan slavery was over, race took the dominant seat and it has been the basis for oppression to control. Afrikan slaves were thought to be savages, less cultured than that of the europeans; thus assumed an easy take-over: treat them as if you would a wild animal and bring him into submission.

    thus, history began melting away in those transatlantic waters…

    having said that, white america – no matter what their “ethnic” background – still has that sense of “white privilege.” even if they downplay it, it still shows up. i presume wanting to ignore history has its advantages – to white people. i suspect that some can’t look at us without getting angry because they automatically feel guilty about something they had not “personally done.” well, join my world. i was BORN this way…but then you have the die-hard oppressors who would want nothing more than to go back to Jim Crow era who will continue to point out our differences and then cry “you’re being too sensitive” when we play the race card they dealt to us..

    i’m all for honest dialogue about history. however, to think that our children or young people could give us some hope of a fictitious post-racial america is naive. they are naive. to forget history would basically let them off the hook of having to study or research. find snippets on wikipedia and they’re done? everyone must know about the country they live in, their heritage, and why things are the way they are. you can make changes, but to forget about all of it to make each other feel comfortable (in my opinion, more white people than black) is not being realistic. blacks are not going to forgive what has not been acknowledged: slavery was an Afrikan holocaust. we have yet to scratch the surface of the scars and systematic abuses that we still suffer from today – even with a black president who, himself, has given the BEST history lessons…i mean, SPEECHES!

    we must confront our past. if we really want to get honest – as you are in these blogs about race and relationships – we cannot move beyond it. it is what separates us. black historically have felt out of place and out of touch. where is our culture? saying African American is too broad, especially when our separate tribes were blended on the ships that brought our ancestors here…i’m still searching for my tribe. so until i can stand before a non-POC knowing exactly who i am (Kenyan-American, Ethiopian-American, or Nigerian/Native-American), i will always have some resentment of not being able to pass that TRUE heritage along to my children and have that continue all the while living here in this society based on what the history of what Europeans did.

    even now, our history is being wiped clean from the history books in colleges and universities. affirmative action is under fire – AGAIN. teachers are using the assassination of the POTUS as math exercises and having their students dress up in KKK sheets as part of a school activity. how do we NOT get over history? how do we not get over that there are those who continue to commit oppressive acts. and POC do not have the power to stop it immediately, then that is the history of America!

    as the Jewish community is so rich and vibrant with their history and dare anyone to speak ill of them (they have laws in place), I would want to have that same code of honor. unfortunately, blacks have not had that privilege…

    history is what makes us. i don’t want to ever forget. i want to get along and be respected and have my culture and heritage accepted as is – not watered down to make someone feel more comfortable.

    #thatisall

    • June 19, 2010 9:46 pm

      I agree, more convenient for White ppl, but I would like to point out that this drive toward indistinction by our very youngest adults is being promoted just as heavily by Black youngsters as White, judging by comments on forums. Some Black youth (more often women than men) apparently feel quite burdened by history too.

      • June 19, 2010 11:10 pm

        thanks for responding. i

        m not sure it is correct that young black women are “burdened” by history. if you’re just talking in the context of relationships, then i’ll walk down that same street with you, but on the other side. but even in relationships, an interracial couple has two different perspectives about the world and there are two different perspectives the world has about each of them.

        if this is just a personal move to remove history out of personal relationships, then take it case-by-case. i have never been able to do that since i value my history. i WEAR it. the youngsters will have no choice but to learn their history when they see how NOT preserving will interfere with those relationships. i mean, if we really wanted to get raw, a POC is essentially dating his/her oppressor without some grounding in their history. extreme, i know..but without acknowledging cultural differences, how can you have true dialogue? how can you be yourself? how can you have a full, rich, and AUTHENTIC relationship? again, i stress the Jewish community. have you observed their responses? are they saying the same thing about their history being a burden to them? the asian community? the hispanic community? we are mentioning black and white because this is NOT happening in any other cultural group nor is the request being made…

        i do see that young people – of ALL race and ethnicities – are an advantage, by living in this age of hip hop (not just for blacks and browns anymore), rap, pop culture, etc., to incorporating discussions about history. from MY discussions with young people – of ALL races and ethnicities – they are very much in tuned with history when engaged. but if you just don’t want to engage them, you’re still underestimating their ability to process differences – and that starts in schools with black kids and white teachers who do not live in urban hoods…they don’t HAVE to speak about it. it’s there.

        i do question those who would rather not deal with it. that, i find disturbing. i can be black and proud and still chose to date someone out of my race provided we both can have discussions about it WHEN – not IF – they come up, i.e. “Something New” w/ Sanaa Lathan. I also would theorize that this thought process would have something to do with the media’s distorted representation of black women. and our YOUNGEST black woman is being targeted the most. that is a huge influence on that thinking process – that is, if that is a current direction.

        and what age group are we talking about when you say “youth’ or “youngest” or “youngsters”? judging a few comments on some forums is not research. you cannot draw conclusions from that. at least, i cannot.

        there is the perception that young people do not want to deal with history. my daughter is within that prime target group and we discuss this all the time. she prefers to date black guys, but finds white guys attractive. however, she as well to your point (in spite of me), does not see this whole “race” issue. but that does not mean she is not aware of her “blackness.” and THAT is the dividing line. owning one’s “whiteness” is very different from owning one’s “blackness.”
        again, to think that we will look to our children to force a drive (i will disagree that there is a “drive”) toward indistinction is naive. young people (and since you have not defined it, i will), 18-25, have not developed, matured, or passed through those psychological stages of development where they can make this decision WITHOUT some provocation and/or influence. race is a social issue. this is the prime target group. you slap T-mobile, LiveNation, and streaming twitter feeds – of COURSE they don’t see race. the indistinction is cultural – all young people in THIS society are top marketing targets. they may blur with the racially ambiguous actors, but that’s just to keep the focus on the product: we are all the same.

        well, that’s what my ancestors were thinking when they were working collectively in their tribes in Afrika, raising their children, educating them – pretty much the same as the europeans…

        so i’m not buying this whole idea that young people are coming up with this by themselves…as Jewish people or Muslims or Hispanics, people of Afrkan descent MUST – it’s not an option – KNOW their history.

        and i am already working to ensure to continue this effort.

        great discussion though! lol

      • June 20, 2010 12:23 am

        @jaymeson, thanks for your thorough commenting.

        You have said quite a lot. Let me process it for a while before I reply again.

  2. David Wise permalink
    June 19, 2010 9:21 pm

    This column raises some salient points. When I was in a loving interracial relationship, I didn’t see their color at all. However, I wouldn’t like to have seen “Roots” with any of my past white lovers. That would have been uncomfortable.

  3. June 19, 2010 9:25 pm

    No. I think it would be stupid (and impossible) to simply forget that integral part of history. Yes, it’s painful, but that would be like asking the survivors of 9/11 to forget it ever happened. My entire stance on interracial dating is this:

    Never forget who you are, or where you come from. But don’t let that set up road blocks that hinder you from building a relationship with anyone. It’s no different from if you were holding a grudge against a particular group of people since you had a bad experience with a small percentage of them.

    It’s important to remember, understand, and realize that it’s history, now. If Africans of the Continent like myself and my family can realize that (a majority of) the white folks of today aren’t out to see us in chains and working plantations, and that that is just another integral part of our history, then our American counterparts should be capable of the same.

    • June 21, 2010 1:37 am

      Aisha :
      If Africans of the Continent like myself and my family can realize that (a majority of) the white folks of today aren’t out to see us in chains and working plantations, and that that is just another integral part of our history, then our American counterparts should be capable of the same.

      But what’s different for Continental Africans is that, as much as they might have been exploited in colonial times, they did not lose their personal history, and most of the many various tribal and local societies persisted. The great exception being South Africa.

      In the various Caribbean countries that are made up of the descendants of slaves, while their connections to Africa were just as destroyed or homogenized as for African-Americans, the islanders at least dominated their post-slavery societies, and had the opportunity to structure their institutions mostly in their own images.

      AAs on the other hand lost ancestry, history, AND the opportunity to rebuild pride. AAs continued to be oppressed, marginalized, and terrorized by the majority community right up through living memory. In this way, the experience of AAs is practically unique (there are some Latin American examples too).

    • Janice Rhoshalle permalink
      June 21, 2010 10:52 am

      Aisha, I couldn’t agree with you more. History should not be forgotten or set aside, but certainly must be put in context. The reason we have so many issues of conflict regarding race AND culture is because of the direct results of our history. We don’t always have to agree on those difference, but it is important that we understand where those differences come from if we are to ever move on. We, in the United States, are a nation of immigrants, and NONE of us is a pure-bred anything. (Even though there are some who would really like to believe that…sorry ya’ll.) We are mutts whose ancestry hails from some other dark corner of the world that have imposed atrocities on its citizens. Are we take a blind eye towards those histories in the name of “Can’t we all just get along?” Or do we deal with it so that we can move on more learned and understanding of one another?

  4. June 19, 2010 10:10 pm

    There is that saying that if we forget our history we are doomed to repeat it. I believe it is important that each person know his/her history or at least a working knowledge of it. The reality of today’s world is that racism is alive and well but not as politically correct as it was while Hitler roamed or blacks were being treated like animals. It is equally important to be able to talk about the differences between the races or ethnicity: that means being able to watch Roots, go to the Holocaust museum or watch clips from ethnic genocides in certain parts of Africa and Bosnian.
    It is a pleasing notion to think that today’s generation has eliminated racism however, I believe that it is just a media illusion. I do agree that race relationships appear to be improving with each passing day and this is evident by the increase acceptance of interracial relationship, a black (biracial)president, and a hispanic Supreme Court Justice.
    Communication is the key to everything and this is not different with understanding the races. People are so afraid to ask questions and talk about something as obvious as the noses on our faces. It’s the fear that keeps misunderstanding and preconceived notions alive. Talking race can be very distasteful but necessary. I also believe very strongly that we should not blame the past on people in the present. It is silly to be mad at my white friend for something whites have done 3-4 generations ago. It’s the equivalent of someone blaming me for my grandfather’s behaviors.

    • June 19, 2010 11:17 pm

      my comment about succinctly stated re “media illusion” was directed at you. sorry about the confusion folks!

  5. June 19, 2010 11:00 pm

    The poll is unanimous so far, but we are a bunch of heavy to medium thinkers.

  6. June 19, 2010 11:04 pm

    HarleyQ :
    There is that saying that if we forget our history we are doomed to repeat it.

    In fact, in the movie whose title I took liberties with, history did keep repeating itself.

  7. June 19, 2010 11:29 pm

    “Our current black and white youth are connecting, befriending and romancing each other across the color line. But theirs has not been a story of overcoming their differences and dealing with shared history. In fact, our youngest people usually aggressively deny that there are any differences, or any history to be interested in.”

    Let me also add that many of them are coming to their own conclusions in spite of their families. My daughter hangs out with a lot of Asian kids, and I know at least one of her male friends has said that his mother was prejudice. She also has quite a few white friends who joke about members in their extended family being racists. But on the other hand, she gets quite a few disgusted looks and side-eyes from the black girls (some not all) at her school when she hugs or sits near the white boys in the cafeteria.

    The world is shrinking more and more each day. Our children are no longer separated from each other. They are much brighter and more aware of their surroundings.

  8. June 20, 2010 2:51 am

    Well, the way I look at is this . . . there was slavery in Africa, even before the Europeans started trafficking to the New World. Africans sold other Africans to the Europeans. In the Arab world, in some countries slavery existed until at least the 1960s but slavery has never officially been outlawed as far as I know. Slavery exists in Mauritania – just do a google. There was slavery in the European world in many forms. Even in the ancient world, back to the earliest Egyptian kingdoms, there was slavery. A while ago I was watching a program about the Spartans and learned that there was a group, who, for all practical purposes, were slaves. The Spartans would keep them in control by periodically killing off those who were seen as the smartest. Even today, there is slavery – just look at how the Asians who find work in the Middle East are treated and of course there is the sex industry.

    I think as long as there are humans on the earth, there will always be that impulse to control another group. The trick is to recognize that impulse and keep it in control.

  9. June 20, 2010 2:55 am

    It’s important to remember, understand, and realize that it’s history, now. If Africans of the Continent like myself and my family can realize that (a majority of) the white folks of today aren’t out to see us in chains and working plantations, and that that is just another integral part of our history, then our American counterparts should be capable of the same.

    Exactly!

  10. Patricia Kayden permalink
    June 20, 2010 9:15 am

    History should be used to embolden and encourage Blacks to continue to move forward. It is a testament to the strength of our ancestors that we not only survived the middle passage, slavery, jim crow, etc., but that we have thrived and continue to make significant progress.

    No need to wallow in the pain of what happened to our ancestors since there is not a darn thing we can do about the past. It’s best to say, “They survived with great odds against them. We can do the same AND MUCH MORE!”

    Blacks are not the only group to be oppressed, so our history does not make us unique. For me, it is a source of strength and pride. Let’s keep moving forward.

    • randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
      June 20, 2010 9:34 am

      Thanks a very good point. I think a lot of us stay mired in history, using it as a crutch, an excuse and a get-out-work/life/education-free card. If there is always someone else to blame, then it’s never YOUR fault for your situation. Like you said Patricia, the key is to keep moving forward.

  11. Sharon permalink
    June 20, 2010 10:17 am

    We should not forget but we also shouldn’t let it keep us bogged down.

  12. June 20, 2010 1:12 pm

    There appears to be a unanimous consensus on what should happen, so I would like to refocus slightly on what you all think is happening. How much of our youth do you feel are blowing off history? And of those that do, is it a phase to go through, or is it an attitude that will stay with them?

  13. June 20, 2010 1:44 pm

    What I learned from (world) history is that everyone’s hands are dirty. There will always be one group dominating the other(s). Sometimes there is harmony, but if there is conflict over resources people will be enslaved or genocide will occur.

    I’ve never viewed myself as oppressed. I get the stuff about “white privilege”, but I don’t hang my hat onto it. If I want better out of life, I don’t see anything or anyone stopping me.

    I find American history as fascinating as the history of other societies, but for me it just doesn’t tip the oppression scales in any direction. It’s no worse or better than others. I agree with some of the ladies above, it’s not my personal crutch. I don’t use it to hate anyone.

    Human beings are what they are: accepting, discriminating, alternately cruel and kind.

    It’s not racial amnesia that’s the issue. Americans don’t know much American history to begin with, and it’s interesting how much misinformation they continue to recite and pass on to others as fact.

    • randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
      June 20, 2010 7:06 pm

      *waves to Betty* Thanks for stopping in!

  14. A.C. permalink
    June 20, 2010 3:15 pm

    Quite an interesting discussion! And what interesting and valuable comments! Well, Here’s mine:

    I firmly believe that we should focus on educating the youth the value of history and the ability to never forget where you came from; that THIS is the role of History… to teach and exemplify so that we can learn how to do better. Not that it always works, as humans are humans with all of the trimmings.

    It is important that History is not used as a personal crutch to prevent you from moving on. The Germans and Isrealis certainly didn’t! They’ve built great economies and societies in spite of their history. History does make us who we are but the extent of defining us, that depends on socialization and personal outlook.

    Where I live,because it is also a multicultural society, ALL aspects of history are taught. From the time children enter primary school, they are taught the differences between Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. The National holidays here are Eid, Diwali and Christmas, Emancipation day AND Arrival day; therefore history is in our very consciousness.

    But the youth are being exposed to so much all at once, especially by the media, they are being led to believe that History does not count; that it is being “closed minded”…some even begin to look upon Religion and certain aspects of history as “Fable”. Just yesterday I was reading in a blog that the annual “Juneteenth” celebrations were dying in Texas, as many people seem not to consider its importance, or its importance has dwindled as “just another day to chill and bar-b-que”.

    All in all, it is important to use History to inspire, encourage and strengthen us into moving forward…

  15. BlkQueenBee permalink
    June 20, 2010 5:29 pm

    I don’t think anyone should forget anything, but I also think it is important to keep the less than 200 years of black slavery that happened in the United States in context.

    The Roman Empire praticed slavery for a thousand years. The Ancient Greeks had slaves for hundreds of years before that. The Egyptian kingdoms were built on the backs of slaves over the course of a couple of thousand years. The Chinese Dynasties had slavery for thousands of years. As someone else pointed out, slavery thrived in Africa for thousands of years before white people started stealing people and putting them on boats.

    The chances are good that most of the people you meet in the U.S. had an ancestor somewhere that was enslaved at some point in history, even if that was two thousand years ago.

    I realize the slavery forced upon African-Americans is more prominent in our collective culture as result of its recency. but really, compared to other periods in the past, and the size of other populations that were enslaved, the duration was extremely short and amount of people affected was small.

    This is not to minmize the incredible trauma it produced; but rather merely to point out that history is littered with instances of enslavement of some people by other people. It was awful whenever it happened, and always will be awful in the re-telling.

    It’s been roughly 150 years since slavery was abolished in the United States; a mere hiccup compared to the scope of human history. It’s been over 2000 years since the Roman Empire took millions of slaves from every corner of their empire, including England, France, Italy, Germany, etc. Those slaves were the ancestors of the current residents of Europe, and, some of the current residents of the U.S.

    None of us will be around to see it, but it will be very interesting to see how history, 1000 years from now, treats the relatively short burst of slavery that occurred in the United States.

    That is, if the Earth itself still exists, or if it does, if mankind is still present on this sphere.

    • June 21, 2010 1:09 am

      In the grandest scheme of things, those two centuries might not matter much, but in the lives people descended from those times, and Jim Crow, and other acts of racism, this history is profound. I was born only 4 generations after slavery, and a few ex-slaves were STILL ALIVE during my early childhood. We don’t have the perspective of a thousand years at this time.

      Besides, slavery in the US is special compared to most other runs of slavery, because it was embedded in a democratic political society that was self-righteously obsessed with freedom, liberty, and rights. Slavery in the US is unique for its level of hypocrisy. Also, none of those other regimes fought a civil war over slavery (slave revolts do not count).

      • BlkQueenBee permalink
        June 21, 2010 7:50 am

        As I stated, and you re-stated, the RECENCY of slavery in the U.S. has made it much more important to people in the U.S. compared to other instances of slavery throughout history.

        And, as I stated, I’m not trying to diminish the pain and trauma that slavery caused in America. Some of that pain happened to my family here in the U.S.

        And, I’ll agree that slavery in the U.S. was more “special” compared to the institution of slavery in other societies, but I would say that those societies also considered themselves quite enlightened while slavery thrived in their midst.

        Lastly, you would be hard-pressed to find any Civil War historian of any consequence that would agree with your statement that the Civil War started and was fought over the issue of slavery. Slavery became a rally cry for the North after the war started, and the popular narrative now is that the Civil War was fought over slavery, but that is not accurate. The issue of slavery was only one issue in the Southern States’ list of grievances with the federal government when they seceded.

        There is not enough time and enough space to conduct a primer on world history, the history of slavery, and, Civil War history on this blog, so I won’t.

        Suffice it to say that I stand by my previous statement as well as this one.

    • Hodan permalink
      June 21, 2010 10:26 am

      I believe the difference in other societies that practiced slavery was the fact it was not an interconnected entity of race and labor. Its with the rise of industrial revolution in Europe and the need for free labor that the Americas slavery and genocide of indigenous people began. For one, in Greece, Roman and even during the Islamic empires slavery existed and often came out of wars. However, these same slaves were able to buy their freedom, marry into the royal/ruling classes and become empire on to themselves: think of the Nubian empire in Egypt and the Fatima ruling family who were mostly black Africans. If the abolition of slavery ended with the civil war, and not continued into unlawful abuses and institutionalized system of bigotry and oppression into the mid 20th century, then many African Americans and other minorities would not be talking about its impact to this day.

      Now I have a little quip with you on this: “Lastly, you would be hard-pressed to find any Civil War historian of any consequence that would agree with your statement that the Civil War started and was fought over the issue of slavery.”

      Only revisionist southern historians would be in denial of why the civil war began. Yes, it started with States Right, but it was based on the rights of States to keep its free labor slaves & the call for treasonous Succession plans. After all, Eleven Southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America, also known as “the Confederacy”.

      In the presidential election of 1860, the Republican Party, led by Abraham Lincoln, had campaigned against the expansion of slavery beyond the states in which it already existed. The Republican victory in that election resulted in seven Southern states declaring their secession from the Union even before Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861. Both the outgoing administration of President James Buchanan and Lincoln’s incoming administration rejected the legality of secession, considering it rebellion.

      anyway, its important not to pretend historical amnesia and argue the civil war was about anything but the rights of few white land owners on keeping and using their slaves. Sadly, millions have died over the privilege held by very few….talk about people voting against their own interest to this day.

      • BlkQueenBee permalink
        June 21, 2010 11:48 am

        Well, I’m not revisionist, I’m not Southern, I don’t have historical amnesia and I’m not in denial. But I do have one foot in the Economics discipline and one foot in the History discipline.

        Straddling those as I do, I would have to disagree that the U.S. went to war with the Confederacy in order to “free the slaves”.

        As late as the beginning of 1861, both the sitting President (James Buchanan) and the incoming President (Abraham Lincoln) endorsed the Corwin Amendment, which would have prohibited the abolition of slavery in perpetuity in the states where it was already permitted. In fact, Lincoln wrote a personal letter to every state governor, asking each one to support it.

        Both the House and the Senate approved the Corwin Amendment. It went through the House on a 133-65 vote, and went through the Senate with equal ease on an intial 24-12 vote. Mind you, this was an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that would have left no ambiguity whatsoever about the leagal right to own another human being.

        It is obvious to me that whatever principles the United States government had regarding the abolition of slavery, or, the evil of slavery, government representatives (and most of the voters) were more than willing to put those aside in order to keep the peace.

        The freedom of black slaves was just not that important to the government leading up to the Civil War. The Civil War did not start as a great moral crusade to abolish slavery.

        It certainly became that, and quickly, but it didn’t start that way.

        The Civil War kicked off on April 12, 1861, and Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in September, 1862, freeing the same slaves that he was more than willing to keep enslaved just 18 months earlier.

  16. June 20, 2010 6:24 pm

    I think much of the ills in the Black community could be solved with an extensive knowledge of our history including *BUT NOT LIMITED TO* the trans-atlantic slave trade and the dynamics that arose as a result. There should be equal emphasis on the great empires of Nubia and Kush amung others and be instilled with a sense of pride.

    I think so many Black youth have an attitude of “ahh who cares about history it doesn’t affect me today” because many are vastly….under-informed to put it politely. We regularly had at home Black History lessons growing up and it made all the difference in the way me and my brother ultimately carried ourselves.

    I was recently speaking to my brother on the issue of interracial relationships as it relates to racial identity and he offered the example of the Chinese who often don’t even want their children to date Japanese, Korean or Taiwanese….strictly Chinese. Why? he asked, I shrugged and responded probably to maintain the race and he said “No, for the preservation of culture” he then made several other really salient points and said “it all boils down to how much of a priority your racial identity and its legacy is to you” and I had to agree.

    I would never want to be in a position in which I could not watch a film like ROOTS or Amistad without giving my partner the side-eye and not being able to bring myself to speak to him for a while. Thats a very real part of my legacy and sometimes I need to be reminded just how far we have come. So this is one of the many things that cause me to be *very* conflicted about WM/BW marriage for myself. The last guy I dated was the perfect profile of the kind of man I would marry if I were in an IR, neither black nor white, and able to see things from numerous perspectives considering the diversity of his family.

    So in conclusion….we need MORE history being taught to our youth if anything and I mean the real history of occasional strife but overall triumph.

  17. Browncow permalink
    June 21, 2010 9:23 am

    I know I’m late on this one. Father’s Day you know. Anyways, I think that it is important to learn about history and its effects on the people and society today. When I talked about this to my husband, he said that had he not married me he would be woefully ignorant to many things. It was easy for him to think of the 50’s for example to be ideal like everyone was living life like it was Grease or something. When I told him that my grandfather’s family had to move from Louisiana to Upstate New York in the 30’s because their next door neighbor was attacked by the Klan by burning the house down and shooting the people as they came running out, he was appalled. Then I went on to tell him that the 50’s were good for some people and not all and I had historical references to back it up. He learned not from the books, but from family accounts of oppression and injustice. Then his perspective changed. It’s important to not use history as a crutch, but as a tool. If more AA kids knew more than slavery and Jim Crow as it pertains to the history of Africans in America they may have more sense of pride. We must also not look to the schools to teach this to our children and take it upon ourselves to educate our children in these matters. Let’s not write off history because our society is a “little” more mature. I hope I made sense.

    • June 21, 2010 12:10 pm

      you made perfect sense! i admire your having these deep discussions with your husband. and this was my point: if we could all have these discussions honestly and openly, we can at least open the door to the sensitive scars surrounding it. we, as a “race” (blacks) have not healed. so yes, it has been our crutch. but i will always relate to the Jewish community (even more so now after watching “the pianist” with my father yesterday). they will NEVER let us forget. it was horrible and tragic! same for the Afrikan holocaust ( not an unfortunate period in time as some refer to it). it has not been fully recognized as such and we have suffered in generations long after it ended. so removing the collective (not individual) “guilty conscience” by not acknowledging it only makes it fester more. let’s open the door to the discussion – like the one we’re having. and yes, black will have to remove the “victim conscience” and begin to look for the contributions we made and use our history as a lesson and tool. i would also like to add that I would like to track back to my lost ancestral loved ones for a deeper sense of connectedness. there is no reason to remove one’s history to have a personal relationship. learning about the other includes their past…

      thank you for your honesty.

  18. Aaron St. Juste permalink
    June 21, 2010 11:38 am

    Interesting Post. It definitely should not be forgotten because it continues to be relevant in consequence. Understanding is essential towards healing, we’ve made strides, but still have long way to go.
    Immigrants from Europe, their ethnicity having a significant effect on their experience in this country, maybe lasts a generation long, then all of the privilege that whiteness in this country afforded becomes accessible… especially through Jim Crow, and even post civil rights… there’s only been less then 50 years of sanctioned participation for those of African decent. Assimilation is far more difficult when your background presents itself in all its brownness, before you do.
    “we are all the same under the skin”… although a very true statement, being that race is a social creation, it is still in consequence true and integrated in all that we are in this country. Ignoring that is like ignoring a broken bone. It may be under the surface, but if not addressed will never be set right.

    http://aaronstjuste.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/why-are-all-the-black-people-sitting-together-at-the-business-meeting-and-what-does-it-matter-a-discussion-about-the-colorblind-fallacy/

    • June 21, 2010 11:58 am

      *applause*

    • BlkQueenBee permalink
      June 21, 2010 12:12 pm

      NOTHING should be forgotten. If I had my way, we would teach a lot more history in school. It’s important to know the details of how we (society) got here, and why.

      We should forget nothing. My point of view is put everything out there, about the famous and infamous, and let people make their own judgements about how things went down.

      I am not interested in what people think SHOULD be true, but rather, what is true. In both world history and U.S. history, there are so many things that have been repeated for so many years that are simply not accurate. And there are so many omissions from history that are imporatant to understanding the nuances of what happened in the past.

      Roconciliation between the races is my dream, as it is for many people, but from my perspective, I’m not interested in reconcilation if it involves any sort of historical erasure.

      More facts = better. Then we can talk.

    • Browncow permalink
      June 21, 2010 12:42 pm

      There you go. My husband’s family is of Eastern European descent. Yeah, for like a generation they were just Polish, Hungarian, and Croatian, but they were allowed to assimilate and become white people. My father is from Nigeria, my mother is from Upstate New York. Though they are of two very different ethnic groups, they’re both lumped into the black category. They and they’re children will never be able to fully assimilate into mainstream society. Our brown skin keeps us from it since it will always tell “regular” Americans that we are “other”. Even white Americans when they talk about Americans, they automatically think “white people”. No my husband’s family had nothing to do with slavery and they brought themselves up from some pretty messed up circumstances, but they were given the chance on a pretty much equal footing (with the exception of class differences) that my family has not been afforded. My father had to work very hard. Harder in fact than the white men to compete with them for not only jobs, but advancement in his career. Same with my mother. We need to address the mentality that perpetuates this “brown people are inherently less-than” and therefore need to be beat the best in order to be just halfway respected. Even POC do it. Enough of my rant…

      • Browncow permalink
        June 21, 2010 12:44 pm

        I wanted to amend something. I meant to say:

        “No my husband’s family had nothing to do with slavery and they brought themselves up from some pretty messed up circumstances, but they were given the chance on a pretty much equal footing (with the exception of class differences) that my family has not been afforded due to them being handed their “White People Card”.”

        That is all.

  19. June 21, 2010 1:59 pm

    Let me throw a little class arrogance in here.

    The bulk of America, Black & White, don’t know history and WON’T learn history. [Warning, very long sentence ahead.] In a nation where 2/3 of adults can’t name a single supreme court justice, only 7% consume any national news at all, just about everybody thinks foreign aid is a big part of the national budget (actually 1%-2%, and most of that is military), 25% of citizens are certain Obama is a secret Muslim &/or socialist, and more entitlements but less taxes are DEMANDED while complaining about the growing deficit, it is obvious to me that understanding race to the level of sophistication that the commenters here (including me) desire is simply impossible for the bulk of the public. I rarely speak in absolutes, but I say “impossible” and mean it.

    So do we let the perfect destroy possible? The general population really needs racial reconciliation. But, sadly, it will have to be done on their level. Sure, if we had decent public education or a culture that valued thinking and knowledge, we would have a chance. Kale (a bitter leafy green) is a fantastic source of nutrition, but try getting someone to eat it on a regular basis.

  20. Staci permalink
    June 21, 2010 2:48 pm

    BlkQueenBee said:

    “As late as the beginning of 1861, both the sitting President (James Buchanan) and the incoming President (Abraham Lincoln) endorsed the Corwin Amendment, which would have prohibited the abolition of slavery in perpetuity in the states where it was already permitted. In fact, Lincoln wrote a personal letter to every state governor, asking each one to support it.

    Both the House and the Senate approved the Corwin Amendment. It went through the House on a 133-65 vote, and went through the Senate with equal ease on an intial 24-12 vote. Mind you, this was an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that would have left no ambiguity whatsoever about the legal right to own another human being.”

    I’ve actually heard of this. Sometimes people call it the “Ghost Amendment”.

    And if the Southern states had taken the deal instead of seceding, there would have been no Civil War, at least for awhile, and there might have been legal slavery well into the 20th century. And Lincoln would have been one of those presidents that no one can remember the name of.

    Can you imagine this being the 13th Amendment, instead of the real 13th Amendment, which is the one that officially outlawed slavery? Can you imagine us as slaves in Alabama in 1910 or the 1930’s? Or the 1950’s?

    But the Southern states didn’t take the deal, because they were so sure that they would prevail in their secession bid. They were confident they didn’t need to take the offer.

    We almost got thrown under the bus (horse-drawn trolley?) in that moment.

    • randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
      June 21, 2010 2:55 pm

      “But the Southern states didn’t take the deal, because they were so sure that they would prevail in their secession bid. They were confident they didn’t need to take the offer.”

      Wow…just wow. Thank you, South, for your bravado. Whew.

  21. June 21, 2010 3:30 pm

    randomthoughtsfromcali :
    “But the Southern states didn’t take the deal, because they were so sure that they would prevail in their secession bid. They were confident they didn’t need to take the offer.”
    Wow…just wow. Thank you, South, for your bravado. Whew.

    It’s not clear the Amendment would have cleared 3/4 of the state legislatures and been adopted.

    Actually, the political analysis by the Southern leadership was that if they took the deal, the West would eventually spawn enough free states (in say 30 years) that the promised safe haven would legislated or amended away. By that time, the South would be at less relative power to the developing North and West, making secession impossible. So they decided to take matters in to their own hands, figuring this was there best chance at controlling their own destiny indefinitely. I think their analysis was correct.

    So, in their minds, slavery was a big factor in their decision, in addition to other things such as taxes on cotton and tariffs on imports.

    • BlkQueenBee permalink
      June 21, 2010 4:29 pm

      Actually, there was a good chance of the states ratifying the Corwin Amendment, since there was not a lot of enthusiasm for war at that moment. Only three states (Ohio, Illinois and Maryland, I believe) voted on the amendment before events eclipsed the need for ratification, and all three of those states ratified the proposed amendment.

      And, yes, the Southern states didn’t like the math in terms of the future states, and were very concerned about that, which was part of the decision process, AND, they also thought they would prevail in their secession efforts, whether that was through the United States doing nothing to stop them, or, through subsequent armed conflict. Obviously, they weren’t going to do it if they didn’t think they stood a great chance of being successful.

      But, I think the point I made is being obscured. My point is that there was no moral imperative to free the slaves, and that, that imperative was what started the Civil War. The United States (and Congress and Abraham Lincoln) cared so little about the slaves’ freedom that they were more than willing to trade the enslavement of millions of people for many more decades (at the very least) just to keep the Southern states in the Union. There was no one screaming about how we needed to go free those slaves because it was the right thing to do.

      The Northern states didn’t want slavery to expand westward because they didn’t want the Soutern states’ economic and political power to expand with it, since those states were decidedly anti-federalist, sort of the proto-Tea Party people. Everyone was pretty much happy to allow slavery to keep going where it already was; there was no huge push to free those slaves, except from Abolitionists, who were more or less regarded as a fringe element.

      The South miscalculated on their ability to win the War Between The States, although it was very much touch-and-go for quite some time there.

      We’re lucky they did get that wrong. If they had taken the Corwin Amendment deal, we would have been human chattel in those Southern states for decades longer, at the very least. You say the chances of the states ratifying the Corwin Amendment were not great; well, I disagree. The House, the Senate, the Executive branch and a few state legislatures had given the nod to it, and prospects in most of the other states looked good, and in some states (Southern states), it was a slam-dunk.

      So, I’m done discussing this now. This amount of grinding detail about the events leading up to the Civil War is very interesting to me, and it might be interesting to you, but I would bet it’s making everyone else’s eyes cross with boredom.

      Thanks for this discussion.

      • June 21, 2010 5:41 pm

        not at all! you have solid research and this is how i learned it as well. the civil war WAS NOT about freeing the slaves. Lincoln needed it to pull the states together. freeing the slaves was the political catalyst…

        thank you for sharing for those who might continue to think that Lincoln was our ancestral savior. it was all economics and political, not moral.

        so i personally thank you for supporting your argument with EVIDENCE – evidence that anyone can research – that same evidence that, if not acknowledged, learn, and accepted – will continue this movement to downplay it.

        if we cannot get the facts right about it, how can you say forget it? at least KNOW IT!

        not bored at all…in fact, i was eating popcorn while reading…thank you!

      • June 21, 2010 6:38 pm

        BlkQueenBee :
        But, I think the point I made is being obscured. My point is that there was no moral imperative to free the slaves, and that, that imperative was what started the Civil War. The United States (and Congress and Abraham Lincoln) cared so little about the slaves’ freedom that they were more than willing to trade the enslavement of millions of people for many more decades (at the very least) just to keep the Southern states in the Union. There was no one screaming about how we needed to go free those slaves because it was the right thing to do.

        I concede your important point totally.

        Lincoln built his early career on being anti-slavery, but by the time of the party convention and subsequent Presidential campaign, he was totally focused on preserving the Union. He explicitly stated that if freeing the slaves would save the Union, he would do it, and if strengthening the institution of slavery would save the union, he would do that too.

      • Browncow permalink
        June 22, 2010 10:35 am

        Thank you for the history lesson! I’m so glad I’m going to homeschool my kids because they wouldn’t learn this part of history. Lincoln is painted as some savior to black people and even the GOP tries to recruit more blacks and minorities on the back of it being “The Party of Lincoln”. I totally don’t trust the current political system anyway, both parties are just in it for themselves anyway. But I will make sure to do my research as well into this so that when I do history, I’ll tell the real deal, not the happy, pie in the sky, unicorn jumping over the rainbow crap that we learned in school.

  22. lafemmenoir permalink
    June 21, 2010 5:07 pm

    Although I gave birth to my son when i was young, I have always strived to
    raise him with a deep sense of who he is and where he (and his antecedents) come from. I think that it is very important that everyone understands not only their history, but the history of others as well. With that said, I think, while well-intentioned and well-meaning, we (people) sometimes, while conveying historical facts and information to our descendants,can also pass along sentiment and bias, inadvertently. This is why some whites are convinced that ALL blacks hate them and why my brothers/family feel that not dating exclusively black, is tatamount to genocide and reason for repudiation of yours truly.

    I feel that we are all human beings, irregardless of color or history, and should
    treat each other as such, not as historical figures. What I mean is, my asian
    ex-boyfriend is not the former automaker president who referred to black people as
    shiftless and lazy; my slightly younger, handsome, and extremely flirty italian coworker is not one of the 3 italian youths who chased Yusef Hawkins to his death; my really sweet ex-egyptian arab boyfriend was not party to raids into the Sudan to collect slaves; my gay republican friend C does not agree with most of what has been done under previous republican administrations, which is why he voted for Obama in 2008; and the white off-duty cop who helped me with my flat tire back in winter ’09 is not the same cop from back in the 40’s who tried to pin a crime on my father, which caused him to flee his hometown and never return. The charges were false and never stuck, but it was the south- you could be killed for anything back then. All that stuff has happened in the past, history. We are now at a point in history where walls are actually being broke down, racially. People nowadays, especially the youth, are forging new bonds and relationships and some
    of the stigma leftover from Jim Crow is being chipped away, albeit slowly. Real and lasting change won’t happen overnight, we all know this. It is childish to think otherwise.

    I sometimes wish, naievely, that we (AA) can put down some of this baggage that we have been carrying for far too long. It slows us down and makes us dull, because all we can focus on is how much pain this baggage is causing us, and not what we could achieve if we didn’t have the baggage to begin with. Me? Damnit, I was tired of carrying my steamer trunk. I inherited it and I really didn’t want it. It didn’t fit my style. I prefer to travel light, taking only what’s necessary and leaving the rest. Yes, admittedly, there have been times when I wished that
    I’d packed a few extra pieces to shield me from a few harsh realities, but in the end I was better for not having done so, because i wouild have missed the bus (opportunities that arose afterward). As for my son, I taught him to pack light and keep a flexible itinerary. As a result, he has friends in every port.

    As a people, AA, women especially, need to realize that there are people who benefit from misery, or keeping the problem a problem. These people stand to lose a lot. Some even realize that they might be exposed for the frauds they really are, and it scares them, so what do they do? The old smoke and mirrors trick- black women’s be’s the de-bil (Yup Christelyn, I stole that from you. hahaha). I honestly believe most of them do AA women a disservice and some AA women are beginning to realize it, which is what is bringing them to your blog Christelyn (and others like/similar to it). Of course there will be those who can’t or won’t fight their conditioning and for them I still hold out hope they will.
    Hope for change.

    • June 21, 2010 6:53 pm

      @lafemmenoir,

      You point out, rightly, that is about finding the balance between too much historical consciousness, turning ourselves into race warriors, and too much living in the moment, leaving ourselves open to disappointment.

  23. Beebo permalink
    June 21, 2010 8:39 pm

    I wasn’t bored by the details around the proposed amendment, either. It is all new to me and something I think needs to known more widely, especially in AA circles.

    Thanks.

  24. Avy permalink
    June 23, 2010 5:07 am

    My husband and I joke about this all the time. I’m Black and he’s Jewish (Romanian and Polish) so our son has the most effed up cultural history. There’s awesome in there, too, but between the slavery on both sides, the abuse and genocide… History probably won’t be his favorite subject in school.

    In our home, the past happened but we weren’t there so I don’t get pissy over it. As for Roots, I just don’t watch it. Same goes for Halocaust movies. But we both LOVE Inglorious Basterds.

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