• Sona Chaturvedi

Race Theory Critical for Truth

Photo Credit: Andrew Caballero Reynolds/Getty Images. Americans aren't learning their country's complete racial history.

Our past has been whitewashed. By design, many textbooks don’t deliver the unvarnished truth about American history, or at best gloss over some of the less flattering details. Like, for example, the fact that our forefathers were slave owners and Native Americans were systematically eliminated.

“History is written by the winners,” two-time Attorney General William Barr said recently, with a methodical, sardonic grin, in a 60 Minutes interview.

The sad part is it’s entirely true.

In her book Caste, Isabel Wilkerson points out how even Adolf Hitler recorded his admiration for the uniquely American “knack for maintaining an air of robust innocence in the wake of mass death.” Wilkerson reminds us that the Nazis were inspired by America’s race laws. We aren’t taught that either.

Most of us never learned about the Tulsa massacre against Black Wall Street, in which a white mob attacked residents, homes and businesses in a thriving neighborhood 100 years ago. The event remains one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. history, and, for a period, remained one of the least-known. News reports were largely squelched, despite the fact that hundreds of people were killed.

The right does not want us engaging in any type of self-examination.

Some of the undeniable accuracies that conservatives want to silence, according to Amanda Marcotte of Salon, are: “things like the practice of redlining, the truth about what the Confederacy stood for, what Martin Luther King Jr. really believed and the history of lynching. That is why, for instance, they are so afraid of schools teaching the 1619 Project by the New York Times. Not because, as they falsely claim, it's inaccurate. No, the real objection underlying all the noise is that the 1619 Project is true. Conservatives want facts, the thing that all people claim they want children to learn, to be replaced with flat-out lies about American history.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of the 1619 Project, was denied tenure by the University of North Carolina, supposedly as a result of the contrived controversy.

History has been altered because there is an absolute power in the truth. It is a fact that Black men were often tortured or lynched for daring to look at a white woman. It is a fact that Black women were subjected to countless rapes and a list of other horrors. Recounting it all makes it too real for conservative white culture. In other words, it just doesn’t fit their narrative.

The whitewashing continues to this day. The shooting of unarmed Black men and women, the justifications made for it on the part of police, and the attempt to demonize and silence Black voices is ongoing.

Black Lives Matter offered some appeasement of corporate white guilt, as they added BLM logos to their jackets, shirts and made donations. But real, meaningful progress has been slow.

A perfect example comes from the National Football League, which only recently admitted it practiced, “race norming.” The league used stereotypes about Black people's cognitive function as part of its concussion settlement fund. Incredibly, the implication was that Black brains aren’t as high functioning as white ones.

This is why it is so important to learn history, the actual history of race in America, and not a sanitized version that makes white people comfortable. Because there are real-world consequences.

And that is why the right is afraid. If the truth comes to light, and people actually know their history, there can be only two possible outcomes. Americans will either be, or they won’t be, horrified by their ancestors’ actions.

If they are not, they cannot be reasoned with under any circumstances. If they are, no doubt they will seek to develop a greater understanding of our society, and positive change will be possible.

Given the cruelty we have witnessed over the last four years, we really have no idea how many minds among our contemporaries could be changed. But this wouldn’t be for them. It’s for the history books to reflect actual events as they happened.

Imagine if we gloss over the last four years. How will our children and grandchildren know the truth? The right is already trying to rewrite the history of the Jan. 6 insurrection. “A lie is a lie, even if everyone believes it. The truth is the truth, even if nobody believes it,” according to a popular quote circulating around the Internet, attributed to the mysterious David Stevens.

Bill Barr was dead wrong. History should not be written by the winners.

It should be written by truth tellers.