“We are still in a pandemic.”

I say this to friends who are measuring themselves against the pre-pandemic standards of performance and comparing their lives to the time before we weren’t trying to do everything under one roof.

“We are still in a pandemic.”

I say it to family members who are feeling guilty because their list of accomplishments is not as long as their checklists.

“We are still in a pandemic.”

I say it to myself, prioritizing self-care over everything else. It is a necessary reality check, a fact check.

Because it is easy to forget.

But some things you don’t forget or at least you should not attempt to deny them, like affordable, accessible and safe health care for all Americans. It’s a basic human right, like the Civil War was fought over slavery not “state’s rights” and America is a racist country despite statements made recently by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Because America endorsed and legalized this racialized caste system that privileges some and punishes those it renames “other.” See The Wages of Whiteness by David Roediger, When Affirmative Action was White by Ira Katznelson, White by Law by Ian Haney Lopez and The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein.

“‘Black’ and ‘White’ are treated like natural categories rather than the concepts created through social, and at least partially legal, interaction between peoples not initially racially defined by those terms,” Lopez writes.

Because we were legally segregated in all facets of life and even death until the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964. Because it was illegal to marry persons of a different “race” until 1967.

Americans of different cultures were told to not mix or mingle, to not live in community by order of the law and due to the sociopolitical construct of race.

They couldn’t even share a drink of water.

“Whites only.”

“Coloreds only.”

“We serve whites only. No Spanish or Mexicans.”

“No dogs, Negroes, Mexicans.”

Signs bearing these words were hung at businesses, hospitals, schools and cemeteries.

It’s too much to make up. It has been happening for hundreds of years and cannot simply be covered up.

No matter the political season or the political figure, no one has the power to deny history. We have been warned by poets, historians and prophets alike about attempting to.

George Orwell taught us, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

Maya Angelou would agree; she said, “The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are.”

James Baldwin drew a line when he said plainly, “We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” Baldwin said that some things are just undeniable.

We can add climate change, the results of American presidential elections, the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccinations and the fact that those indigenous to what is now the United States have a beautiful, rich and vast history despite the feigned ignorance of Rick Santorum.

A CNN political analyst, Santorum said during a recent speech addressed to members of the Young America’s Foundation, “We birthed a nation from nothing. Yes, there were Native Americans, but there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”

But the colonizers stole their land, which is not synonymous with discovered, infected them with disease, enslaved them, turned them against each other in war, slaughtered them for the cause of “civilization.” Those that survived, they relocated.

See the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Trail of Tears and the Indian Appropriations Act of 1851.

This, the colonizers claimed, was their Manifest Destiny.

In fact, the First People were not made citizens until 1924 with the Indian Citizenship Act or given the benefits outlined in the Bill of Rights until the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Santorum has since said he “misspoke,” but his comments are a blatantly obvious example of “the danger of a single story,” the title of the well-known Ted Talk by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

It is also a clear case for why the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian’s curriculum, Native Knowledge 360 Degrees, is so critical.

Because the First People, those indigenous to what is now the United States, had cultures, languages, faith traditions and rituals long before Thanksgiving.

Also, they called themselves many names but American and Indian were never on the list. Names like Apache, Abenaki, Cheyenne, Sioux, Inuit, Delaware, Cree, Mohawk, Chickasaw, Seneca, Ottawa, Kiowa, Oneida, Navajo, Choctaw, Hopi, Lakota, Innu, Potawatomi and Kickapoo.

Say their names, but millions were lost – population 300,000 after colonization. These names were here long before Santorum, and he cannot deny that.

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