As a history buff, it pains me to think that history is actually making some things worse. The purpose of history is to provide case studies of how humans handled a variety of situations so you can take that knowledge and make decisions for the betterment of all involved. However, it seems many want to emotionally hold on to certain events in history as a kind of manifesto for a select group of individuals.
Growing up in Tennessee, I was educated on the Civil War ad nauseam. Every year in junior high and high school, the details of the conflict were analyzed and meant to be memorized until I was sick of hearing about it. Would you believe me if I said that never once did we learn that slavery was the cause? That ugly fact was embedded into the alternate explanation of an industrial versus agricultural way of life. We did learn a little about slavery, of Harriet Tubman for instance, but my true education in the atrocities committed came from the original television miniseries, “Roots.”
It’s unsettling to realize history is subjective, because it challenges your trust in everything you’ve been taught. For me, the lie is that the Civil War was resolved in 1865. What wasn’t conveyed: the Ku Klux Klan was founded in my home state in 1865 in response to the Confederacy’s defeat that same year. Despite the abolition of slavery, the white-is-superior attitude wasn’t extinguished, and we saw firsthand this month that the embers are currently alive and well in many Americans, including members of the U.S. military, the New York City Fire Department, and federal law enforcement.
I was livid to see those criminals storm and loot the U.S. Capitol. Some intended to harm members of Congress and the Vice President, with chants like “Hang Mike Pence” and “Where are they?” questioning the whereabouts of lawmakers. It reminded me of the tiki-torch-carrying protesters from a few years ago and the escalation of anger and resentment fueled by a sitting President over the course of his term to the events of January 6th. The fact that insurrectionists carried the Confederate flag down the halls of the Capitol in 2021 is proof enough that generations of racist parents have passed down the ridiculous mantra, “The South Shall Rise Again.”
Should we not consider the aforementioned education a cause?
Like cancer, if you don’t remove all the abnormalities, they will come back, often more aggressively. This idea that any of us is better or worse than any other is the cancer of humanity that must be eradicated. And I’m not just talking about race. Any division — ethnicity, gender, sexuality, body type, age, what have you — allows an individual to mask their insecurity with an air of superiority at the expense of another. That abnormality can have dire consequences and is the very root of this problem. If we don’t extract that mindset soon, real history will indeed repeat itself, and no one will be able to feign surprise.