Recent histories of the United States invariably focus on the experience of the various vanquished Indian peoples and of the African slaves, not to mention the various new minorities who arrived in the 20th century. You know, this kind of thing is demoralizing to read. Wholesale destruction of Indian tribes; the slave ships of the 18th century…the list is endless, and even if one remembers the other side of the story – the cruelty of Indians or Africans; the many kind and humane Europeans; the utterly different societies and conditions of the past – one wishes things could have been different. (I mean this mainly with regard to those who were displaced or forcibly brought here; I have little concern with peoples who came of their own accord after the country was formed.) What gets to me is not so much the alleged badness of my forbears; I have learned to listen to those forbears directly, and their humanity and heroism are apparent to me. It is simply the sadness of knowing that for our civilization to rise, other peoples and cultures had to perish or be pushed aside. And they, too, had their humanity and heroism. That is the tragic side of our history.
Adults who are secure in their sense of identity can afford to contemplate, from time to time, the sometimes unfathomable cruelties of history, including those that took place in their own country. That does not necessarily mean that it is a useful thing to do. I remember reading of a Holocaust survivor who derided the idea of using art and literature as a means to “understand” that event. Some things are so horrible that there is nothing to be gained by contemplating them, which is not the same thing as saying that the facts should not be ascertained, the causes analyzed, etc.
What about in the case of children? We obviously want to teach our children to value and seek truth. But responsible people would not expose children to historical narratives that could traumatize or confuse them, any more than they would expose them to pornography. I think here our culture is deeply confused: on the one hand, our cultural arbiters seem to have decided that stories like “The Three Little Pigs” or “Little Red Riding Hood” need to be rewritten so that there is no villain and nobody gets hurt. On the other hand, they seem to have a compulsion to expose children to graphic accounts of violence and cruelty of America’s past, as long as it is a matter of white Americans being cruel to non-whites.
Book excerpts with N-word rile family of fifth-grader
Christine Ferretti / The Detroit News
Warren — The family of a former Warren Consolidated Schools fifth-grader is suing the district, claiming the African-American girl was the victim of racial discrimination when excerpts from a book about slavery containing “outrageous statements” — including the N-word — were read aloud in class.
The lawsuit, filed last week in Macomb County Circuit Court, says the district inflicted emotional distress and racial harassment on the girl by allowing a Margaret Black Elementary School teacher to read sections of the book “From Slave Ship to Freedom Road” by Julius Lester.
The lesson took place in January, and involves passages that include: “Step right up! New shipment of n—–s just in.” And, “Nine months after you buy one of these n—–s, you will have a plantation full of n—-r babies,” according to the lawsuit.
Novi-based attorney Scott E. Combs, who is representing the family, says the incident violates Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which bars employers — and schools — from discriminating on the basis of factors such as religion, color, age, height and weight. The family is seeking damages exceeding $25,000.
Combs said Tuesday that numerous letters and calls to the district failed to remedy the family’s concerns over the literature.
The issue, he said, ultimately led the parents to pull the child from the district. She is now enrolled in sixth grade at an undisclosed school in Oakland County.
In the book — geared toward children ages 10-15 and in grades six to eight, according to Scholastic’s website — Lester uses text to interpret 24 paintings by Rod Brown to re-enact the 250-year journey from the first slave ships taking Africans from their homes to the Civil War and emancipation. It also depicts difficult truths such as whippings and lynchings, Scholastic.com says.
An Amazon.com review said some paintings “may be too powerful for younger children” and certain depictions “are difficult even for adults to bear.” The review says, “Children may be initially startled… but they will also be engaged and enlightened.”
I remember Scholastic. When I was in elementary school in the 1970s, we got children’s magazines published by them – I think they were called Scholastic News and Scholastic Voice; there was also one called Dynamite. We also could order books through the Scholastic Book Club – you would bring in a few dollars for the order, and a week or two later the books would come in. What a pleasure that was! Ghost stories, dinosaur stories, and some books dealing with the Founding Fathers and other topics that I daresay planted some seeds that are yielding fruit decades later in this blog.
So Scholastic is now in the business of forcing children to hear stories and see pictures of slavery and lynching, and even to do “thought exercises” that are different for students of different races! Neither black nor white children should be exposed to this sort of material, which is upsetting in itself and is obviously going to inculcate guilt in the white children and anti-white hostility in the black and other non-white children.
To cap off this “educational” travesty, the author of Slave Ship is black! So, a black man writes an anti-white children’s book, a teacher (I suppose white) reads the book to the class, and a black child’s family sues the school for traumatizing her. On both sides, blacks make money and get to inhabit the moral high ground in the deal; meanwhile, children of both races are mistreated. It sounds like another good example of what some are calling “Black-run America.”
This is not a country that I want to live in or consign my children to live in.
The reality is that some things are more important than making sure that certain “facts” are widely and publicly known. For instance, a people must first feel secure and sovereign in their identity and enjoy a healthy connection to their past, before they can enjoy the luxury of critiquing themselves and their history. The American people today enjoy no such security and are allowed little such connection. In such an atmosphere, it would be better if slavery, lynching, the atomic bombings, and other morally and ethnically-charged phenomena were suppressed and forgotten, than that they be taught as they are today, where every “fact,” true or false, becomes ammunition for angry minorities, foreign colonizers, and foreign enemies. This goes for what is told to adults as well as what is told to children.
And of course – my regular readers will hardly need to hear this – facts themselves can mislead more than enlighten. It would be better, I think, if no one “knew” that there were 5,000 lynchings between 1882 and 1968 in the United States except those who were also prepared to also learn, for example, what portion of those lynchings were of whites; how many victims of lynching were likely guilty; how many Americans in the North and South perished in the Civil War; the nature and condition of black communities from Reconstruction to the present; and recent black-on-white crime statistics. We should note also that a book like Slave Ship is more fiction than fact – how does Julius Lester know what kind of dialogue took place at a slave auction?
I believe in seeking truth. But even if it could be proven that all of the whites who colonized America were nothing but plundering, raping savages, I would stand by their descendants’ right to control this land and the destiny of the nation. Because somehow or other they created the America I know, a unique and beautiful civilization that I would do anything to help save. If you accept that, we may have something to talk about.