What did you learn in history class?
Probably not as much as you should have. Public high schools around the nation literally neglect to teach essential elements of black history like Malcolm X, the Black Panthers and Apartheid. In fact, I was not even aware that Apartheid had ever existed until my college Human Rights class due to my lack of proper history education in my mostly white public high school. Newsflash: Our world as we know it today would not exist without history. And it’s definitely not just old white men who made it possible.
This is where history comes knocking, and we don’t answer the door. But it’s still keeping an eye on us. Everything we do and say as a people and as a society will echo on for years and years, ultimately reaching a point where it repeats itself again, as if we never learned anything from when we did it the first time.
Recently, I heard someone declare that racism isn’t “around anymore” because “that was a long time ago, we are different now,” they said. But are we?
If you’re paying attention, every right you have or don’t have, everything about your life is as a result of past experiences. So when you dismiss the events from “a long time ago”, it is counterintuitive.
There are things that are hidden pieces of history repeating itself. Within the Black Lives Matter movement stemming from police brutality are the echoes of the 1950s and 1960s when those affected by Jim Crow laws and police brutality took to the streets and protested for their rights to equality in America.
The sounds of 19th century slavery are plastered on the walls of the U.S. Federal Prison system. Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, described how prisons systems in this nation are reproductions of slavery in modern day America. The War on Drugs in the Reagan era unlawfully incarcerated thousands of minority individuals and this pattern has continued; ultimately resulting in a repetition of our historic downfalls as a nation. In fact, I could argue it’s not a mere repetition, but that it has never ended.
When history is reproduced and disguised as things like mass incarceration it is essential to pay attention to it, and to know that it will no go unnoticed by the string of time that is all connected under one atmosphere. The events of the past creep up to haunt us, so it is our job to be disruptive.
The key is to disrupt this string of events through time that have continued to inflict non progressive values in the White House or within the home of your next door neighbor. The Parkland kids, for example, are this type of disruption. They are what I can only describe as renegades for destroying traditional historic narratives that keep repeating themselves. They are hated, but they will change America. And history is watching.
Student Noah Otte wrote a Letter to the Editor in response to this piece.