There is no miracle that will deliver us from our racist history or the need to face it

President* Trump,

Please note, I’m fully aware that we lost the wonderfully notorious RBG today, which no doubt has you and Mitch giddy with shitty possibilities, but I’m going to do some serious grieving before I comment further on her passing and will instead send you the letter I started this morning before her death was announced.

I closed yesterday’s letter with the following:

May we accept that most everything the GOP accuses liberals of, they are doing themselves in spades.

I almost always have a tough time coming up with the last line of the daily loving-kindness prayer since invoking the idea of acceptance so often feels naïve at best, if not outright disingenuous. In other words, there is little about the current situation – other than the base reality of it – that feels right or righteous to accept. Consequently, most days I twist over what I can honestly say we ought to consider accepting and often feel unsatisfied with whatever I manage to muster, but self-imposed rules are rules, so I persist. Mostly. I do sometimes allow myself the luxury of urging non-acceptance of something, but that feels like a cheat so I try not to go there too often.

Coming back to yesterday’s “May we accept….” message, I was definitely thinking about there being an infinitely deep bucket from which to pull examples of hypocritical finger-pointing on your all’s part, but I was also thinking specifically about your nifty, pre-election rile-the-base idea that liberals have indoctrinated America’s youth with lies about American history and that you’re going don your “History Teacher in Chief” cape to put us back on the right (pun intended) track with a….

“pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s
great history… (and the) miracle of American history”
(from the WP article by Moriah Balingit and Laura Meckler)

Gag me.

I’m surprised you didn’t also pretend that you can require schools to teach creationism to give your Evangelical base a bone you know they’d love and that would distract them from those among them who’re starting to wonder out loud just how Jesus-aligned your priorities really are. Heretics, those wonderers…

I’ve told you before that as a child I read all of the biographies about people of color and women that my K-8 Portland, Oregon public elementary school had and most of the ones in the local county library. I can still remember where they were shelved – up on the top shelf, out of reach of most of us – I needed the little rollie library stool to get to them. I can also remember where the books about the Holocaust were shelved (on the top shelf on the opposite wall from the biographies) and where the books about Native Americans were (in the far corner down on the second to lowest shelf). I read them all. I couldn’t get enough of this stuff that wasn’t being taught in my classes.

But what’s missing from this list? What did I not even realize wasn’t there or that I didn’t think to look for? Maybe it was on the shelf below the Native American shelf, but I don’t know because as much as it pains me (truly) to realize now – I didn’t seek out books about African Americans other than the small handful that were on offer in the biography section. Whether it was my oversight or there were no such books, this was not a mistake – it was by design. The Holocaust was semi-safe to let kids read about because it wasn’t directly perpetrated by the US (though, I’m positive none of those books explained our anti-Semitic exclusions of people seeking refuge here during Hitler’s rise). Similarly, books about Native Americans and how they “helped the Pilgrims” were semi-safe because they could be romanticized with plenty of misleading high gloss.

But the capture and enslavement of millions of Africans to support the entire economic engine of the US – harder to pass that off as just another innocuous chapter in American history. Better to give it the barest of mentions, treat it as a blip, and move the hell on to our amazing (slave owner) Founders and their commitment to equality for all (White, landowner males). Better to never ever acknowledge the Founders’ hypocrisy or just how hard White male supremacists have worked over the intervening centuries to maintain the original oppressive social order.

But seriously, I know and you know that the systemic racism cat is out of the bag and that it’s not going back into the bag no matter what you manage to get your base to latch onto, so how about you just stop? Please.

May we be safe from lies and historical White washing.
May we be willing to be clear eyed about what happened.
May we be strong enough to face what we’ve done and what we need to do.
May we accept that even the most heroic among us can’t live forever.

Tracy Simpson

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