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A Racial Reckoning: Why people of color represent a mirror that White America refuses to look into

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – Declaration of Independence

“Our nation was born in genocide.… We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

There are certain fundamental truths that far too many Americans refuse to believe about their country. One of these, is that the story of America we have all been taught about in school is full of falsehoods. Unfortunately, for those attempting to prove otherwise, your forebears left a litany of evidence of their bad deeds.

The evidence is plain to see and always has been. For most of the nation’s history, the truth was not in dispute. The bad deeds were spoken and written about by the perpetrators. They found a way to justify these bad deeds time and time again. They did not see a reason to conceal what they did.

When an anti-black race riot took place in Lincoln’s birthplace, Springfield, Illinois in 1908, it spurred a multiracial group to form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). They set about challenging America’s discriminatory practices, policies and laws that had kept Black people largely unprotected for 300 years. Black GI’s returning from WWI fighting for the rights promised in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights came back to make America live up to those lofty ideals.

The Civil Rights Movement exposed the truth of America to the rest of the world. That is when things became problematic and needed to be covered up and lied about.

For fifty years Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans challenged the racial order in America in a national Civil Rights Movement. They began to shine a mirror on America that was used by communists as propaganda against this nation.

This mirror has shone on a pack of lies clearly over the course of time since the Civil Rights Movement was destroyed by the federal government under the auspices of the COINTELPRO program led by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover with the approval of Presidents and Attorney Generals of this nation.

The past seven years, since Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, has been an opening of eyes, ears, hearts and minds. Witnesses to the falsity of the creed of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have made America look in the mirror. They will not stop forcing America to look at itself honestly.

Ethnic studies programs have developed copious documentation of the truth from the perspective of people of color. This evidence has challenged the way America sees itself, but more specifically, how many White Americans but not nearly enough of them see this country.

Now we see people who want to put the genie back into the bottle. It’s too late. Fighting to end the teaching of systemic racism is showing how active systemic racism is. Trying to cover up the bad deeds that have been well documented by the perpetrators, is backfiring.

More people are becoming aware of the bad deeds, and attempts to keep them a secret by those who want to keep us in the dark. They have inadvertently brought attention to things previously unknown and not spoken of. It reminds me of the mischievous child who can’t wait to do exactly what their parents tell them they should not do.

These attempts have piqued people’s interest and is leading to a lot of uncivil discourse in the White community.

White people are arguing about the images in the mirror for the first time in the nation’s long history. Previously, people simply accepted what they were taught without seriously challenging the narrative. That is no longer the case.

So much of the real history of America is now a part of the discourse that it can’t be unlearned. The white supremacists who rallied to protect Confederate monuments in Charlottesville in 2017, brought attention to how many of those monuments exist. I doubt that many Americans prior to 2017 were aware of the extent that states in the South and North celebrated those traitors who attempted to break up the republic, leading to America’s bloodiest war.

People of color have made sure that their lived experiences are well documented and this has led to those stories being explored in multiple genres of film, television, radio and podcasts. No one can honestly claim to not know more than they knew a decade ago.

America has two mirrors. One is like the mirror at the circus, which distorts reality. The other is the more accurate one we have in our bathrooms. For the first time in America, people are breaking the circus mirror because it distorts the story of how we got here.

It is about time. I for one, am tired of people trying to convince me that America really believed the words in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. If it truly did, slavery would have ended on July, 4, 1776 instead of December 18, 1865. If it truly did, Plessy v. Ferguson would have not codified in law second class citizenship for people of color. If it truly did, the Civil Rights Movement would have never been necessary.

If America truly believes in those ideals, then the current battles over what version of American history we teach our children would not be up for debate.

“How then can the U.S. society come to terms with its past? How can it acknowledge responsibility? The late Native historian Jack Forbes always stressed that while living persons are not responsible for what their ancestors did, they are responsible for the society they live in, which is a product of that past.” – Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

About The Author

Reggie Jackson

As an award-winning Senior Columnist for the Milwaukee Independent, Reggie Jackson covers a range of African American issues. He is also co-founder of Nurturing Diversity Partners, and volunteers as Head Griot for America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM) in Bronzeville.