slide show
Latest Blog Entries
Monday
Oct312016

"A GREAT NATION FACES ITS FLAWS AND CORRECTS THEM"

 

At the dedication of the National Museum for African American History and Culture, George W. Bush said, "A great nation does not hide its history.  It faces its flaws and corrects them.  This museum tells the truth that a country founded on the promise of liberty held millions in chains.  That the price of our union was America's original sin. . . .  Even today, our journey to justice is not yet complete." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLRuyBd9fRQ

The former President's analysis is incisive and his expression of it is profound.

Euro-Americans confronted with the realities of white privilege often reply defensively, "Sure, there were bad things in the past, but nobody living today did them.  Can't we just move forward and make positive history??"

The painful answer is "No."  The deadly chasm that separates Euro-Americans in the U.S. from indigenous people, African Americans and other Blacks, and Latinx people will never be bridged until those of us in power--most of whom are white--thoroughly understand some of the historical specifics of "America's original sin."  

Only then is there a possibility that the powerful will comprehend the anger, anguish, and deep mistrust that those we have defiined as Others have for us.  Why, for example, "angry Black men" are angry.

 Films like "Twelve Years a Slave," https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z02Ie8wKKRg 2016's "Birth of a Nation"http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4196450/, and "13th" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V66F3WU2CKk offer dramatized, but not essentially distorted, snapshots of parts of this history.  

They help make up for the fact that no widely-adopted 20th century K-12 curriculum taught U.S. school children about Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Amistad, the Stono Rebellion, the "Green Book," the Trail of Tears, effects of the administration of the G.I. Bill, or what Dr. Chris Mato Nunpa documents was the "Hidden Genocide of Indigenous Peoples."  http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu/product/Hidden-Genocides,5008.aspx  

In other words, up to now, our schools have failed to empower us to "face our flaws" so we can correct them.

NOT SHAME, NOT GUILT, BUT RESPONSE-ABILITY

Those who are patriotic and courageous enough to learn about the painful parts of our history as a nation will be saddened, shocked, and chilled.  AND the point is not for us to be shamed or guilt-ed into private or public self-abuse.  This is clearly not what former President Bush had in mind.

Instead, the first point is for us to be educated, enlightened, and informed, because, as always, knowledge is power.  The second point is for us to use this power to become response-able, which means exercizing the willingness and ability to respond.  

As each of us becomes better and better informed about our nation's flaws that contributed to today's racial chasm, we become more and more empowered to respond to these flaws in our own spheres of influence.

POSITIVE RESPONSES 

 For example, 

  • we can actively monitor the effects of white privilege, 
  • share Great Nation History Facts with family and friends, 
  • support equitable hiring practices at work, 
  • practice and support equitable housing practices, 
  • work for equitable educational systems, 
  • work for equitable law enforcement systems, 
  • support equity-focused political candidates, 
  • help to diversify the mebership of every organization we belong to, and 
  • serve as an ally to disadvantaged groups and organizations.  

HISTORICAL AND CONTEMPORARY EXAMPLES

There are historical and contemporary examples that can guide us.  In 1988, during Reagan's presidency, the U.S. government acted to compensate over 100,000 people of Japanese descent who were incarcerated during World War II.  The government offered a formal apology and paid $20,000 to each surviving victim.  I lived in Seattle at the time, and I witnessed how meaningful the apology was and how much this significant gesture helped heal deep wounds.

Another example: Between 1946 and 1958, the U.S. tested nuclear bombs at several sites in the Marshall islands, rendering several islands and atolls permanently uninhabitable.  In recognition of the negative impact of its testing program, the U.S. granted Marshallese access to many government services, facilitated immigration to the U.S. mainland, and continues to allocate over $70 million each year to health, education, and infrastructure support. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/26551.htm  Suits filed by Marshallese persuasively argue that the U.S. response is too little and too late.  So the reparations, at this point, are incomplete.  AND this is another example of the practical possibility of "correcting our flaws."

Georgetown University provided a non-governmental example in 2016 when it acknowledged that, in 1838, the University sold 272 slaves it owned in order to pay some of its debts.  Georgetown's current President offered a public apology for the University's actions and began implementation of an 8-part reparation effort that includes giving admission preference to descendants of the slaves. https://www.georgetown.edu/slavery-memory-reconciliation-working-group-sept-2016

These examples show that it is possible for our government and for private institutions to "face our flaws" and implement attempts "to correct them."

Every Euro-American who is concerned about what happened in Ferguson, Tulsa, Miami, Chicago, New York, Milwaukee, and Charlotte, who mourns the losses of both white police shot by blacks and of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Laquan McDonald, and who is truly loves this country, owes the nation his or her best efforts to do what former President Bush urges:  Learn about our nation's history so we can "Face our Flaws and Correct Them."

 

 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

« YOU EQUITY DO-GOODERS ARE "CONDESCENDING ELITES" HOW TO RESPOND? | Main | SPITTING INTO THE WIND »