I have to admit that I really do not understand what the anti-CRT crowd is so afraid of or why they have chosen this moment in history to fight so hard. Think about the ridiculous nature of their arguments against authors like Toni Morrison and books like Maus. We are talking about award-winning literature that has been around for 30, 40, 60 years. These aren’t works that flew under the radar.
When they argue for teaching sanitized versions of history they say it damages children. That it teaches white children to be ashamed of their skin. Now I just happen to be a white person and I have relatives on my father’s side of the family that rebelled against the United States during the Civil War. There might be some on my mother’s side, as well, but I doubt German Babtist pacifists were too motivated to go to war.
My father has told me a few times that his mother, who was from South Carolina, wouldn’t let him go to Washington, D.C. when he was a child because they had de-segregated water fountains. This is our past. It is reality.
I remember reading Kindred and how starkly it laid out the horrors that the slaves endured, and how we are still feeling those echoes to this day. In one scene an overseer is beating a slave to death and comments to another character that they shouldn’t have run. Think about that reasoning. Black people are still getting beaten and killed in America because they, “Shouldn’t have run.”
Do I think letting my kids read Kindred or teaching them that Thomas Jefferson was a cruel slave owner will cause them some sort of mental distress? Not at all. Mostly because it doesn’t impact me in any way.
America’s past is shameful and this country was founded on white supremacy, but the thing about the past is it is in the past. What is done is done and cannot be undone. It should be of little concern when building the future. The past is full of lessons, but that is all they are. They aren’t actions or consequences, only lessons. We should learn from the past so that we can be better. We should recognize that our Founding Fathers were flawed and only set us on the path to freedom. Freedom that we have yet to achieve.
I think that is what they fear. As I mentioned in a previous post I am currently reading The Power of One. In it, the character of Morrie, a Jew whose family escaped Germany before WWII, talks about visiting one of the African townships. He mentions that what he saw changed him. That must have been what it was like for the Jews under the Nazis and for the first time, he understands the oppression of his people and feels ashamed of his white skin.
His response isn’t to weep in a corner or suffer from mental illness as the anti-CRT crowd fears. What he does is start a night school to educate the black Africans in South Africa. By doing so they run afoul of the Nationalist government and that is where I left off, but I believe that is what the modern American right is afraid of. They aren’t afraid that their children will suffer mental distress brought on by shame, but that they will learn to be good people and want to build a better future.