A local media outlet invited me to write a “letter to the ancestors,” in commemoration of Juneteenth.
In the letter, I was asked to thank the ancestors for all that they gave in the hope that we would one day experience the freedoms and opportunities afforded others in America.
I was also asked to share how far we have come as well as how far we have yet to go, in terms of justice and equality.
As I reflect upon that assignment, it gave me pause to imagine the pain, the torture, the tragedy of slavery in America. To think that slaves in Texas were kept in bondage, deliberately, a full two years beyond the Emancipation Proclamation leaves one speechless.
Just as “the news” was hidden to keep Black bodies enslaved, efforts to hide history continue to abound.
Across our nation, governors are signing legislation to make the teaching of Critical Race Theory illegal.
Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, Distinguished Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law and Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, posits that race is a “social construct.”
It has been invented and perpetuated by society to create perceived differences and stereotypes that present people of color as inferior in every way, she observed in a 1989 article.
Critical Race Theory exposes the historical and current systems, including slavery, Jim Crow, politics, economics, education, health care and so on, all of which uphold white supremacy while oppressing and marginalizing Black and brown people, in particular.
These systems continually advance inculcated policies and practices that maintain inequality and devastating cycles of poverty, brutality and destruction, as David Gillborn explains in a 2015 article.
Stories, such as the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921, are just now gaining broad exposure. Knowledge of the sale of Black slaves by Maryland Jesuits in 1832 in order to help pay the debts of then Georgetown College (now Georgetown University) has recently trickled out.
Statistics regarding the disproportionate numbers of Black and brown men and women being incarcerated, while majority culture men and women committing the same or similar crimes go free, continue to be ignored.
These stories all comprise significant aspects of American history, yet there are those who want to continue to hide or eliminate these experiences.
Arguments against telling these truths of history include “sparking divisions, making young people feel guilty or uncomfortable, punishing current day people for past transgressions that they had nothing to do with.”
For the proponents of such ignorance, revisionist history is much more palatable. Sanitizing school curriculums, for example, only to talk about “I Have a Dream,” Rosa Parks being told to go to the back of the bus and “Black History Month” is acceptable.
Any talk of reparations – the repayment of monies, properties, resources and so on to the families of those who experienced the loss of generational wealth due to massacres, forced, unpaid labor, burned real estate and so on – remains repugnant in the minds of those who continue to benefit from the very wealth that was stolen.
Healing will only happen when we take the bold step to expose the ugly truths, the atrocities, the horrors, the injustice perpetuated by racist systems that benefit only the gatekeepers of the story.
Truth, however, will not be contained. Though crushed to the earth, it will rise again.
James Russell Lowell, in the Boston Courier, Dec. 11, 1845, penned these famous words (here’s the last stanza):
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
Senior pastor of Restoration Ministries of Greater Cleveland. She is the author of Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors.