To know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been.
Don’t believe me? Remove your rear-view and side-view mirrors and try driving. It’s not impossible to navigate the road without those aids, but it’s far more difficult.
The analogy illustrates why journalists so value history. It lends context to the stories we craft each day.
The newspaper serves as the world’s first history book. It tells you what happened the day before.
Sometimes it explores what happened long ago because that history still resonates.
The story on this page by Times Staff Writer Paul Guzzo — detailing the plight Buffalo Soldiers endured here in Tampa in 1898 — reflects the stock we place in history as an interest to our readers.
The reaction some of our online readers had to the story disappointed. Friends will say it’s folly to pursue the taunts and barbs of so-called trolls, but I think some of the folks who posted legitimately believe burying the darkest chapters of our past represents the best way to improve race relations.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
We need to revisit our history, the good and the bad, to frame how we can move forward. Yet the critics, who all identified as white, argued that stories like the Buffalo Soldier piece only serve to heighten racial divides. They see it only as an attempt to imbue guilt.
For me, the story generated admiration for the Buffalo Soldiers, who still went to Cuba and fought for our nation even though our nation didn’t fight for them.
It’s not about guilt trips. It’s about acknowledging all history, and in this case, respecting what blacks endured and overcame.
I shouldn’t be asked to stop talking about that any more than those who eloquently speak of their ancestors coming to this country to seek a better life should be asked to stop sharing their stories.
The forays into the grim realities of our past may create discomfort, but what matters most is how you choose to respond to that discomfort.
The Florida Holocaust Museum depicts the horrors of Nazi Germany’s genocidal rampage, but also explores other historic, hate-filled chapters. It does so not to vilify the perpetrators, but to show what can happen when good people allow the evil in their hearts to go unchecked.
History represents one of the best ways to keep that evil in check.
That’s all I’m saying.