Presented by Lois Winter
We used to say the Pledge of Allegiance in public school every day. I always believed that “with liberty and justice for all” was an essential quality of democratic America. Even though I was aware that civil rights was a continuing struggle, it seemed that, although slow, progress was gradually being made toward equality. Recently, police killings of unarmed Blacks and the rise of White Supremacy became a shocking wake up call that “equal justice under the law” did not actually exist.
Often white people live in a protective bubble, unaware of the circumstances of others around them. I was surprised to find out how much I didn’t know about frequent discriminatory experiences directed toward people of color in America. American history as taught in public school curriculums tends to focus on the white leaders of our nation. The students in my third grade classes represented diverse races and cultures, but the American history curriculum we taught did not include information about their heritage. A large segment of our own population has been left out.
I have been trying to research, learn and share parts of the story that were omitted. The lack of complete information about our past explains why so many whites have difficulty coming to terms with the idea that white privilege, systemic racism, mass incarceration, and the Jim Crow legacy are still embedded in our current rules and laws. As long as the initial race-based inequity goes unrecognized, we have no way to understand how the inequalities of the past continue to affect cultural assumptions in the present.
In 2019, the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans to Virginia was the inspiration for new African American history research. As a result, the stories now told at Jamestown and Ft. Monroe are quite different from the ones I used to hear on our class field trips. I am delighted to share some of the new/old historic information that we didn’t learn in school.
I believe we all need to be more informed about the past in order to move forward. We can’t understand who we are or who we have become without knowing how we got here. The legacy of enslaved people is not only an African American story; it belongs to all of us.
Join us on April 11! #LookBackMoveFoward
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