Face-to-face with history

LINK FIXED!!! Sorry ya’ll.

by ARP editor Tami Winfrey Harris

I have been reading Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present. For its unflinching view of our country’s origins, it triumphs and its sins, this book, along with James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me ought to be required reading for every citizen of these United States. As I have observed the bias and racism that has risen to the front of our public consciousness like festering ooze during this year’s presidential race, I have been struck by how truly clueless most of us are about our history–true American history, not the sanitized Eagles and apple pie version. And so, like everyone who does not know their history, we are doomed to repeat the past’s mistakes. If we want a better future for our children, then we must introduce them to history. (Instead, teachers like Karen Salazar get fired.)

Encountering historical truths can be bloody, depressing and frightening, but the true stories behind the textbook propaganda often force us to make important human connections–connections with Indians slaughtered in the name of manifest destiny, Chinese immigrants suffering while political parties and labor unions rail against “yellow peril,” African children stolen from their homes and forced into the dark, gaping maw of a slave ship. It is this last connection that columnist Liz of Los Angelista’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness made on a recent trip to Chicago’s Field Museum with her children.

If you missed Liz’s searing post on her experience, keep reading:

Yesterday I took my sons to Chicago’s Field Museum. They loved every moment of the experience, from the mummies to the meteorites. Or rather, they loved almost every moment. They totally freaked out over the simulated slave ship in the Africa exhibit.

Actually, I should also include myself in the freak out. I just wasn’t mentally or emotionally prepared to go into a simulated slave ship hold and neither were they.

There we were, innocently walking through the exhibit, checking out various cultural artifacts from lots of different countries: drums, spears, knives, walking sticks, hairpins and religious iconography — and then all of the sudden there on one of the walls was this paragraph detailing how slavery stole away so much from the civilizations that had created such beauty. Then, before I knew it, we were at the entrance to what looked like a dark tunnel. Except, it wasn’t a tunnel. It was the entrance to the hold of the simulated slave ship.

My four year-old began crying and screaming in terror. My seven year-old clutched my hand and said, “I don’t think we should go in there. It looks evil in there.”  Read more…

Share and Enjoy:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • del.icio.us
  • Current
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • NewsVine
  • Ping.fm
  • RSS
  • StumbleUpon

About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>