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  • Ezekiel E. Rhymes, Columnist, Rhymes Media Group

Déjà Vu: The History That Has Been Untold, Keeps Being Untold Over & Over Again

For us here at Rhymes Media Group, we have tried to critically study, and deconstruct the sources, and modes of White Supremacy within this country, and throughout the world. We have sought to look at the effects White Supremacist ideology has had on people throughout all corners of the world.

Though the elders within this news organization have poured years of their lives within their own study of the pathology of White Supremacy within society, I will endeavor to add my own voice in this area by providing a case for the need to teach the history of people of color, so that the understanding of their own identities may be full and true; and not for people of color, only, but also of all who have a correct understanding of history, so that they may have a correct understanding of others.

So, in describing why history in public schools is so distorted, the reasoning behind these actions must be understood. The true purpose for the distortion of people of color’s history is to show that they are inherently inferior to white people. It also strips them of their identity, and their person-hood. History is that which reveals the identity, and the meaning of one’s being. If one has no understanding of what their history is, they will not have a good idea – perhaps none at all – of who they are as a person.

That is why Marcus Garvey said, “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots” – and if there are no roots, the tree will fall. With an absence of one’s identity through the neglect and distortion of one’s history, they have lost their person-hood; they are, in effect, a soulless shell, left to wander the earth with no inherent purpose of their own. Their only use and worth, then, is to be handled, and ordered about by the persons with souls, those who have an identity, those who are superior than they – white people.

Michael Porter, in his book “Kill Them Before They Grow” calls this a “curriculum of genocide,” where, if there is no knowledge of self, there is a kind of death before death.[1] This is the true necessity for teaching the history of people of color.

Generally, the history of people of color is restricted to a select few of notables, for Africans and their descendants, it’s the Saharan kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai, the Swahili coast, and the Bantu expansion; for Latinos, it’s the Mexican groups of the Olmecs, the Mayans, and the Aztecs, as well as the Incas; for the Asians, it is Eastern Asian groups of China, Mongolia, and Japan, as well as the Indian empires. For Melanesians and Polynesians, well, let’s face it, they are almost left out all together.

When it comes to European history, however, and Europe’s conquests of the Americas, history textbooks can’t seem to get enough of it. We are invited to a thorough tour of Europe’s history down from the Greeks and Romans, to the medieval empires and kingdoms of the Goths, Vandals, Lombards, and the Holy Roman Empire, continuing to European global expansion from Columbus to the present age.

As a result, world history then is not true world history, but merely white and/or European history with a few footnotes of other pockets of the world. This Eurocentric bias of the telling of history is unjust, and leaves people of color with a distorted and empty view of themselves, while white people are constantly being affirmed and acknowledged for who they are as a people. For there to be a complete view of world history there must be paid more attention to societies often neglected in most history textbooks.

Quite contrary to what many history textbooks say, China, Mongolia, and Japan are not the only nations of note within Asia, nor are Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia the only major historical nations within sub-Saharan Africa. Yet this seems to be the case when it comes to modern historical textbooks.

The whitewashing of ancient history must also be dealt with as well for people’s identities of themselves to be complete. When it comes to historical research of the ancient peoples within the Arabian Peninsula, Mesopotamia, and the Nile valley, they are almost always portrayed to either be white, or light-skinned.

Nevertheless, when looking at how the ancient peoples depicted themselves, they incontestably portray themselves to be dark-skinned. This is same when it comes to how other people have described them. These people include the Egyptians, Sumerians[2], Akkadians and many other peoples in these regions. Modern historical scholarship has also neglected the influence that black African peoples have had on other lands, such as Asia, Europe, and the Americas.[3]

As was said before, the reasoning behind this whitewashing has been to negate the person-hood, and identities of African peoples, and to empower the identities of white Europeans and their descendants. The restoration of these histories will help not only how black people see themselves, but also every other ethnic group that has been influenced by the cultures of black Africans.

At the front of American history, there has been scarce acknowledgement of how blacks, Latinos, and First Nations people have built American society. Public schools have not acknowledged that most of the wealth accumulated in this country has been gained through black slave labor, First Nations’ land, and the cheap labor of Latinos. Nor has the deep history of oppression, segregation, and genocide in this country against people of color been addressed (Such as how America’s infrastructure has historically been built by the slave-like labor of mostly black, Latino, and First Nations prisoners).

Paulo Freire noted in “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” modern American students are in the “banking” system of education, where school systems fill in White Euro-American views of history (and thus, in effect, present-day reality), which the students readily receive, while, at the same time, dulling the creative, and rational powers of the students, allowing them to passively accept historical propaganda.

After reading this article however, some may say that history is “all in the past”, and has no bearing on our present lives, that we are the ones that shape our destiny, and we should focus on the here-and-now. I do not disagree with the fact that we are in the here-and-now, and that we shape our own destinies, but it would be foolish to also say that we are not in any way influence by historical realities. In fact, as said in this article, our own identities are formed by past realities. Thus, a full and true understanding forms a full understanding of ourselves, more specifically, and of the human race in general.

Resources for Further Reading:

When Racism is Law & Prejudice is Policy, Edward Rhymes (2007)

Black Athena Series, Martin Bernal

Africana Encarta, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Kwame Anthony Appiah (1999)

A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn (1980)

Unexpected Faces in Ancient America, Alexander Von Wuthenau (1975)

[1] Kill Them Before They Grow: The Misdiagnosis of African-American Boys in American Classrooms, pg. 29 (1997).

[2] The Sumerians called themselves the “black-headed people.”

[3] See recommended resources at the end of this article.

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