This is a partial draft of a chapter I am writing in a book entitled "Critical Race Theory and Me."
Revisionist History and Reparations
Black History Month (BHM) is coming to an end. When I was a kid in school, we usually celebrated BHM by noting the black inventors, doctors, scholars, activists, athletes, and celebrities that were missing from our textbooks. But the uproar over Critical Race Theory has caused me to focus even more on the suffering of black people that leading politicians are trying to keep out of our textbooks as well as our consciousness. The great suffering and many incredible obstacles and barriers that our black heroes had to overcome amplifies their greatness. That's precisely why we, as African Americans and, dare I say, all Americans need to know "the rest of the story."
Last night I saw a play about the famed black female pilot Bessie Coleman. I found out that she became the first American, black/white, male or female, to receive an international pilot's license in France in 1921. That's the kind of stuff we traditionally learn in BHM. But there was so much I didn't know about her "story." In the play, they mentioned an incident in which she and her Cherokee and Black father were walking down the street, and some white men began following them and taunting her father. Her father was commonly taunted for being black and Indian (having long hair). Bessie's father ignored their taunts, so one of the men kicked his daughter in the back, causing her to fall. He kept his composure, picked her up, and they kept walking. They kicked her again, and she fell and hit her head. Her father again picked her up, held her in his arms, and began walking even faster. This time they were both flung to the ground. He covered her with his body while they spit on them.
The next day Bessie's father announced that he could no longer take it and left for an Indian reservation. Knowing this story, how she lost her father, and how she had to go back to picking cotton to replace his income to help with the other eight children magnifies her greatness. When we practice revisionist history and cover up the fact that these things happened, we also cover up part of the best part of the story, the resilience shown by our black champions.
In the article below, there is a story where LA County was sued for a beachfront property that it wrongfully took from a black family in the 1920s. Some called it reparations. I believe it's part of what Critical Race Theory opponents are partly afraid of. If we admit these ugly incidents in history, the question of remedies will arise. The family won the legal fight with LA County and then decided to sell the land for $20 million. The sale is creating an uproar. Why?
If a white family had land in their family for several generations and sold it and made a fortune, would there be an uproar? Most (except Ron DeSantis) acknowledge that the Indians' lands were stolen from them and that there was something that should be done to remedy it. Here's where Critical Race Theory Comes back into the discussion. If we blot out from history the fact that black people commonly were run off lands, and had entire towns burned to the ground or flooded, then it makes it seem like a black family selling this land is wrong. Land ownership has always represented generational wealth. We must acknowledge that denying an entire people group that specific type of generational wealth still reverberates in 2023. If we don't, we will be upset when that people group cashes in on that generational wealth when something that was stolen from them is returned.
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