remembering history

to be sold and let

Conquering the past has become even more treacherous in recent years because of the rapid increase in the number of people who know nothing substantive about American history. If we are ever in danger of losing a sense of national identity and mission, without the focusing brought about by national crisis, then it seems that the danger comes from a lack of education about the nation’s past, not from new discourses around race and racism. I shudder to think that schools, universities, churches, and other institutions committed to some notion of truth are often the greatest impediments to justice. They have been quick to identify with the populist, self-serving, and dehumanizing values of society.

Yale University students discovered in 2001 that their institution was founded with money made from the dirty business of the slave trade. But Yale is not alone; profiting from the enslavement of Africans was a national project, not merely an individual corporate or personal one. There were individual whites who had nothing to do with the enslavement of blacks per se. Of course, most whites participated in the privilege that came with whiteness in a racist society, and there is culpability when receives the rewards of someone else’s suffering and degradation. The fact that one of the most prestigious universities in the nation has a history intertwined with the slave trade only demonstrates the extent of the crime.

–          Erasing Racism by Molefi Kete Asante

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