Gov. DeSantis, despite your efforts, we’ll always share our truths about our Black, American history | Opinion
Black History Month has long been associated with education and jubilation. For many decades, this was the only time of the year that the eyes of the country focused on us and our contributions to America.
During February, we find creative ways to impart our history to our children through dramatic plays and songs that help to tell our history. We proudly tout the names of Black inventors and the names of those who excelled in medicine, education, sports and the arts. Why, even in our churches, our preachers always find ways to incorporate in their sermons the stories of the lives of Blacks in the Bible.
The history/story is not always pretty. But as we celebrate, we must also tell the story of how we first came to these shores; of how we were enslaved and degraded and beaten. And killed. We must tell the stories of how, as slaves on many plantations, we were not even allowed to communicate in our own native tongue. That running away was a common practice, even when there was no place to hide. And that being hunted down by angry slave owners and hound dogs was also common.
Yet we love to tell how we persevered — through slavery and post-slavery and Jim Crow-ism; discrimination in our schools and universities; and discrimination in the workplace, where we could not join unions and were paid less for the same service rendered. We are proud of how we forged on when all we had was a glimmer of hope and our faith in the Lord.
We could keep moving on because somewhere deep in our spirit, there was something embedded in us that caused us to be overcom-ers, even in the most desperate of times. Even so, in the middle of the pain inflicted on our fore-parents, slave mommas still loved and nursed white babies at their breasts while often bearing the pain of blistering scars from the slave masters’ whip.
Yes, Gov. Ron DeSantis, some of our history is just downright ugly. But it is our history. Our American history.
So as we tell our youths the stories of how we found a way “out of no way,” as my mom used to say, we still do so with jubilation and hope, especially during Black History Month.
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We tell our youth the stories of how we found a way — through our songs and wittiness — to get our messages across to each other, to endure the hardships, and for some of us, to escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad. And the slave masters never knew what we were doing.
We stand, ever so proudly, when we sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known to us as the Negro National Anthem. And we dress in colorful African attire and wear it, heads held high, to let the world know that we are proud of our history and of who we are.
This year, however, the jubilation associated with this commemoration is tainted.
As we started the month, on the first day of Black History Month this year, Tyre Nichols, who was brutally killed by Black police officers, was laid to rest in Tennessee. Now Nichols’ story is embedded in the history of police brutality and thus has become a part of our American history.
Then there is the ongoing debate of whether to teach, or not to teach, Black history in America’s schools.
See also: Black leaders blast College Board’s changes to AP African American Studies course
Already, some states — Florida among them — have banned some books by Black authors who dare to tell stories of Black life. Some teachers even admit they don’t know what, or how, to teach Black history these days.
What a pity. Black history is American history. You can’t teach one without teaching the other.
While the history of the plight of Blacks in this country is not always pretty, it is our history and it should be taught to all children regardless of their ethnic background.
If our true history had been taught in our schools early on, perhaps there wouldn’t be such a divide today. Perhaps there would be more respect and compassion for people of color.
Not teaching our history has made us a country of ignorant people who don’t know much about each other and therefore don’t care. I think that because of widespread ignorance, Blacks still bear the label that says we are shiftless and lazy.
Not incorporating Black history into American history is why there was such chaos when our schools were finally desegregated. And why there was so much “white flight” and vandalism when Blacks moved into white neighborhoods, trying to buy a piece of the American dream.
Not knowing our history caused angry white adults to shout racists slurs in 1960 at a small Black girl who was brave enough to integrate an all-white elementary school in New Orleans — the first Black chlld, in fact, to attend an all-white elementary school in Louisiana. I remember reading about little Ruby Bridges in the newspaper and seeing the picture of her walking bravely between two burly white U.S. marshals.
I really can understand why Gov. DeSantis wants to block such history. I imagine it makes him feel ashamed, and so he thinks that blotting such historic events out of school curriculums will make that history go away and that no white child will ever have to feel guilty about it. I don’t want anyone to feel guilty about our history. But the truth must be told.
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Perhaps the governor can blot our stories from the history books and from our educational institutions.
But he can’t blot out the image of little Ruby from the minds of millions, like me, who will never forget. And, Mr. Governor, you can’t make me stop telling Ruby’s story, either. I have told it to my children, my grandchildren, and now, my great-grandchildren.
I agree with you on one thing, though: The truth isn’t always pretty, and learning about it does at times make us uncomfortable. But teaching the true history of our country is necessary. Knowing the truth can help us to be better human beings.
You may ban our books and forbid our stories to be told in Florida’s schools. But you can’t ban the truth from our heart. We will not let you steal our history.
So try as you may, Mr. Governor, you will never make me, and other freedom- and justice-loving people, forget our history — or to be too afraid to share it. We will find a way.
Ancestors Day celebration on Sunday, Feb. 5, in North Miami
The community is invited to an Ancestors Day celebration at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5, at Enchanted Forest Park (Elaine Gordon Park), 1725 NE 135th St., in North Miami. The purpose of the event is to honor the memory of Black ancestors during Black History Month.
Participants are asked to wear white and bring a chair or blanket to sit on, and flowers and fruit to be placed on the ancestors’ altar. It’s a free event and open to the public.
Bea L. Hines can be reached at email@example.com.