Déjà vu: The MISeducation of America

We are in another déjà vu moment, or have we just been here all along?  We have never told the whole truth about our white supremacist history, and it looks like we’re still fighting to preserve the “culture of the confederacy” even in Northern states.

A significant number of Historians tell us that after the Civil War the Daughters of the Confederacy (DOC) erected monuments in almost every southern town in the Union to preserve the “culture of the Confederacy.” What has only recently become evident by their examining artifacts, documents, and textbooks is that the DOC also controlled much of what was included and excluded in the textbooks and classrooms in the post-civil war era up until right now.  

Directly after the Civil War, textbooks were not only dictated and written by the DOC but were also agreed upon by school boards throughout the country in “deals with the devil.”  The Devil, in this case was the “culture of the confederacy,” more commonly known as white supremacy.  One such textbook’s dedication reads, “This book is dedicated by the author to the Youth of the Southland, hoping that a perusal of its pages will inspire them with respect and admiration for the Confederate soldiers, who were part of the Ku Klux, and whose deeds of courage and valor, have never been surpassed, and rarely equaled, in the annals of history.” The DOC’s influence persists in the teaching policies of many school districts.

The mission of the Daughters of the Confederacy was primarily to preserve and teach the “culture of the confederacy” to the youth.  The textbooks and statues were intended to tell a reframed story of the war and the “heritage” of the south to reflect the “lost cause” version of the Civil War.  The lost cause promoted that the primary cause of the war, as the “Northern Aggression” in violation states’ rights. 

In teaching the “lost cause” narrative to every generation of students since the civil war, the miseducation also effectively and intentionally left out not only the issue of slavery as the primary reason for the war, but also the history of Black people–heroism, innovation, and resilience in the United States.  This revisionist history was one of benevolent paternalism and taught that slavery was a good institution that protected and provided for enslaved people in better ways than they were able to protect and provide for themselves.  It took no accountability for the harm caused to families, disruption of economies, and even nations caused by slavery.  The reframing revisionist vision of the Southern heritage version of history only accounted for the wellbeing of the (white) American economy because of the “benevolent institution” of slavery.   

Revisionist history, miseducation and misinformation is not new.  It is even older than white supremacy, it is older than war, it is as old as Genesis.  “Where is Abel your brother?” asked God.  “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” deflected Cain.  “The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground” replied God (Genesis 4).

The new effort at white supremacist revisionism is led by multiple state legislators proposing new bills to prevent the teaching of Black History.  The role of slavery and other massacres of Black people throughout the United States is being disallowed from the discussion of the great migration, and their ongoing effects of racism.  Nearly a dozen states have proposed or passed bills that restrict the teaching of history to exclude racism and sexism.  How is it possible to teach about the Suffrage movement, or the Civil Rights Act, or Voting Rights acts in our history without being able to discuss racism, sexism, and their ongoing impacts?  How many of us never heard of the Tulsa Massacre until recently? The blood of our brothers and sisters still cries out.

Déjà vu!

After a season of dealing with religious hypocrites and accusers Jesus told them, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples . . .And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. . . whoever commits sin is a slave to sin. . .” 

Even since emancipation we (as a nation) have remained enslaved by the sins and consequences of slavery because we have refused to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”  If we hope to escape the déjà vu cycle of destruction, we must start by telling the truth of our history so that we can do better.  Until then we will continue to have this horrible nightmare.

By Doc Courage

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