I was recently at a Yoga class in Florida when out of the blue, the instructor, who is a white lady who appears to be in her early 70s, stopped mid-sentence her regular instructions to apologize.
It was for comments she had made in a class on the previous Monday (which I never attended), she said.
She went on to explain that she did not know what Juneteenth was, so when she had grumbled that the regular Monday holidays were upsetting her schedules, she was being ignorant, not disrespectful. She said it was only when she went home and told her daughter what she said and was berated for not knowing that Juneteenth was a “Black Lives Matter” holiday, that she recognized that her remarks had been insensitive.
Realizing that clearly neither she nor her daughter really understood what Juneteenth is, (it has nothing to do with Black Lives Matter, as that’s only the name of an activist group), I decided to have a word with her after the class. Not to quarrel with her, but to educate her.
For she is just one of the millions of people in the USA who know nothing about the history of slavery/oppression of black people in America.
It was Winston Churchill who said, ‘history is written by the victors,’ and that is ever so true.
In America, most of the original historians were white, so they carefully avoided reference to white oppression/savagery and the role black people played for almost 250 years in building America without any compensation.
This impression was reinforced recently as I watched a discussion on CNN, in which a college-educated young man from Tulsa, Oklahoma, said he knew nothing about the Tulsa Massacre until recently when he saw a documentary about it on television. He added that nothing about slavery or the struggles and oppression of black people was ever taught in high school when he attended less than a decade ago.
For the benefit of the unlearned, the Tulsa Massacre was the most infamous of the many direct assaults on progressive black people by envious whites in recent history.
It took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, when mobs of white residents, some of whom had been deputized and given weapons by city officials, attacked wealthy black residents, looting/destroying homes and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, then known as Black Wall Street.
About 10,000 black people were left homeless, and property damage amounted to more than US$1.5 million in real estate and US$750,000 in personal property (equivalent to $34.18 million in 2021)
It was not until recently that information about many other wealthy black areas in the USA that were similarly looted by envious whites started to emerge!
In fact, I dare say that it was not until black history month started in 1970 that most Americans, both black and white, heard any history about the role of Afro Americans in the country, apart from them having been brought from Africa as slaves!
It took many more decades too for the history text books to start to record and teach snippets of black history in schools. Even so, older white Americans have held on to the myths about blacks being lazy, hangers on who were saved by the white man, which was taught to them when they were at school.
Those white supremacists are mostly the people who see former president Donald Trump as their hero, as for blacks to remain marginalized the truth about their history cannot become common knowledge.
Prominent among those determined to hide the truth is Trump’s chief disciple, Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida. He has even taken direct interest in censoring what is being reported in text books at the schools in the state.
His motivation, he said, is that nothing should be taught in schools to make one race feel bad about their history or remind others about past oppression.
People like DeSantis and Trump, who wish to hide the truth about how America became great at the expense of black slaves and native Americans, clearly do not understand the depth of Jean Racine’s prophetic words; “There are no secrets that time do not reveal.”
So yes, it is taking a long time, but the truth is finally being revealed, and soon the real meaning of holidays like Juneteenth and the achievements of black people in America will have to be acknowledged and appreciated by the ignorant and even the most racist whites.
In the meantime, each of us has a responsibility to enlighten everyone with whom we come into contact, as I and two other students in the yoga class had to do recently.