Point of View Columns

History Belongs to No One

          It would seem that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis believes that history is an item that is subject to possession and favorable revision. DeSantis seems to believe that history belongs to whomever gets to decide on what is history and what is not. He clearly believes that history is a flexible narrative that relies solely on the narrator.

          That this is not true should be obvious. That DeSantis is lying should be apparent. Because history is a collection of facts regarding what has already happened. And just because someone wishes to be selective regarding which facts are presented, does not change the reality of history – and that reality can be obscured for only so long.

          Every country and every culture has its idealized version of itself – it has its myths and aspirational images of what should be. Of course, that is not history – here we are talking about myths and aspirational images.

          Every country and every culture also has an idealized vision of itself so it is understandable that uncomfortable truths are many times overlooked in the name of patriotism and the belief in ideals that have yet to be attained.

          Following up on that point of view we begin to understand how the myth of America collides with the reality of America. The myth of America begins with intrepid pioneers and “explorers” who “discovered” land on which millions of people had been living for thousands of years. Indeed their “discovery” must have been quite a surprise to the indigenous people on this continent – just as the ensuing mass genocide that almost wiped out the indigenous people within the span of a few hundred years was a surprise.

The myth of America also portrays rugged and sturdy white citizens who, with their labor and superior knowledge and technology were able to build a sturdy agrarian based economy which in turn served as the foundation of an industrial economy that became a wonder for the world to behold.

The uncomfortable truth is that without horrific race-based slavery that agrarian based economy would not have been so sturdy. And if race-based slavery was not such an incredibly important asset to the American economy in the 18th and 19th centuries, it is doubtful that New York City would have been the capital of finance which not only financed slavery and the slave trade, but also created the great wealth which financed the transcontinental American “expansion”.

It would appear that DeSantis and his supporters believe that if we believe, and more important teach, as though genocide and slavery were not inescapably crucial elements of the America that we know today, then that reality will evanesce. Which, of course, it will not.

And therein lies the problem for the DeSantis’ across America. Not telling the true story of America does not make the true story go away. Prioritizing the study of “Western Civilization” while minimizing the value and importance of Black history in America is a fool’s errand at best. And most importantly, history does not belong to DeSantis or anyone else. History is a set of facts to be discovered, studies and understood, but history belongs to no one.

And again, it is a fool’s errand to believe that white boys and girls who learn the truth about the history of this country will become ashamed to the point of debilitation, when in fact they will be inspired to aspire to a better America.

Finally, how sad it must be that, at the beginning of Black History Month we have someone like DeSantis trying to proclaim that he owns history and that he will determine what aspect of history should be taught.

Some please tell DeSantis that history belongs to no one…it never has and never will.

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5 thoughts on “History Belongs to No One

  1. skytrooper70 says:

    If DeSantis and his ilk had their way, the south would be portrayed as the victor, in the Civil War. That way, they could avoid teaching anything, at all, about Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Black Codes, the KKK/Knights of the White Camellia, 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, etc.

    Truly, it’s mind boggling to hear die hard southerners/confederate supporters continue to complain about “erasing their history (i.e., the “Lost Cause”)” while, simultaneously, trying to erase Black history, in its entirety. As such, although DeSantis claims that he is concerned that young (white) children are not made to feel “guilty or uncomfortable,” learning about (white) America’s past sins, he has no concerns about young Black children feeling “uncomfortable” about their lot in society.

  2. dskeete67 says:

    God bless you brother Wallace for such a profound piece of writing. There is nothing I can add to this other than to say that DeSantis and his kind cannot erase the truthfulness of the past, despite how he attempts to cherry pick what he and by virtue them, perceives as history.

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