American history cannot be studied unless it is studied with all it entails, even parts people would much rather not remember. Regardless of how dark our history is, we cannot mold it into a version that is more pleasant for the ears. Slavery was real and it deserves to be studied and understood properly. American students learn a version of slavery that is considered the sanitized version. They are not given all the necessary information about what really happened in the past of their country.
Incomplete American History
How, I ask, can we learn from the mistakes of the past when we don’t even understand what drove us to make them in the first place? Slavery didn’t just happen, there were deep-rooted white supremacist ideologies in Americans that drove them to enslave blacks because they deemed them to be inferior to themselves. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, kids in schools are presented with an incomplete version of the history of America carefully eliminating major parts of the era of slavery.
The New Normal in Education
The average American student recognizes major figures that helped free the slaves such as Harriet Tubman and the others who directed slaves escape through underground railroads. But what they don’t learn is what the slaves went through while they were imprisoned. Only 8 percent of high school students surveyed by a polling firm chose slavery to be the basic reason that led to the Civil War, the rest chose tax protests to be the cause of the war. The cause was slavery, even Attorney General Jeff Sessions agrees on this bit.
“Though many Southerners try to say otherwise – and I love my people – slavery was the cause of the war. It was not states’ rights or tariffs or agrarian versus industrial economies. Those issues were all solvable and would have been solved. The cloud, the stain of human bondage – the buying and selling of human beings – was the unsolvable problem and was omnipresent from the beginning of the country. And the failure, the refusal of the South to come to grips with it, really to actually change this immoral system of enslavement led to the explosion. As to slavery, it had to end. The nation could stand the disgrace no longer.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions at Abraham Lincoln Foundation’s Annual Lincoln Day Celebration.
Slavery: The Root of War and Racism
Slavery was the cause of a lot of things, including racism, in the United States. Where slavery ended in 1865, give or take a few years, racism took its place in the nation. White supremacy caused the Democratic Party in America to remain a “white man’s party” until well into the year 1920 and later. Things like restricted immigration and human breeding came to life where they once didn’t exist. It is in a human’s nature to fear anything that is different than his own self, but how can that rule possibly apply to a man of different color? Does that make a person any less human and any less deserving of the same rights?
The Land of “Some” Free
Since this is a rather sensitive subject, most teachers in schools are to blame as they just sway over the subject gently without really delving into it the way they should. If we don’t sugarcoat other aspects of history, why should this be any different? The lack of proper understanding on the student’s part is what is leading the next generation to completely misunderstand what racism even is. We cannot sentimentalize black history and it surely cannot be understood with the help of movies that have been made on it.
Statistics alone show just how uneducated the majority of students in the United States are when it comes to understanding what African Americans went through in this great country we call the land of the free.
While many problems may present themselves while a teacher is teaching the students about slavery, they are not valid reasons to choose not to teach this side of history at all. In order to give the kids a chance to create a world free of restrictions based on ethnic and religious backgrounds and the color of one’s skin, we have to educate them properly so they don’t end up making the same mistakes their ancestors did.
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