Whenever I go to a new doctor, one of the things I dislike most is filling out medical history paperwork. There’s row after row of one horrible illness after the other, and I must not only know if I have had any of the illnesses, but I must also know if my parents and even grandparents have had any of the illnesses as well. However, even though I dislike filling out the paperwork, I always complete it as accurately as possible, and I’m sure you do too.
The reason we are as thorough as possible with those forms is because we realize that for doctors to know how our health can be affected in the future, they need to know and understand the history of diseases in our families’ past. Even though we may not have ever had any of the illnesses, just having them in our history, no matter how distant, puts us at a higher risk of developing these diseases in the future or dying from them if they are not treated.
So, it is interesting to me why there is a debate about whether our nation’s complete history should be taught, especially now when America’s racial health is in critical condition. Just as doctors need to know as much about our history as possible to treat us, we need to know as much about our nation’s history to combat and defeat the sickness of racism, bigotry, prejudice and ignorance that is permeating through America’s body. See, for me, the debate surrounding what should and shouldn’t be taught has less to do with history and more to do with healing.
Last year, people from all social classes and all races came together in solidarity to denounce racism. Many had no idea about not only the atrocities committed but also the triumphs of those who survived and even thrived through those atrocities. Out of that unified stance came a renewed, and for some a new interest in the full history of our country. People wanted to know more, but more important, people wanted to know the truth.
Those who worship at the altar of white supremacy must have been horrified because there are two things supremacists hate: unity and knowledge. So, they set the plan in motion to try to eliminate both.
They know that if people were really taught our full history, then Lewis Latimer, a Black man, would be in textbooks next to Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. Everyone would learn of all inventions and creations by Black people from potato chips (George Crum) to home security systems (Marie Van Brittan Brown), and the golf tee (Dr. George Franklin Grant), to tissue holders (Mary Davidson Kenner) and thousands of other things that would take days for me to list.
They know that unified and knowledgeable people would never tolerate racism, inequality and systemic oppression. So, they choose to throw away America’s history paperwork, because it’s easier to keep America sick than to treat all people well.
Geveryl Robinson is an instructor of English at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and a former columnist for the Savannah Morning News.