“No people can begin their history in slavery. God has never created anybody in slavery. All people are first created free, then they are enslaved. So any African beginning their history in the United States of America is a stupid African beginning their history in slavery. And if you begin your history in slavery, the best you can hope to be is a good slave.”—Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael)
History is boring, they say; there’s nothing interesting about. It’s just a bunch of dates and people that are too hard to remember at one time. Why is the teaching and learning of history important anyway? It has nothing to do with my ability to be a productive citizen, and it has nothing to do with how I make my money. It’s a useless discipline. These are common sentiments often heard from students, but strikingly, I hear the same from brainwashed or better yet, “whitewashed” adults. I am ashamed when I hear an adult Black man or woman grumble how he/she hates the discussion of history. They hated it in high school and they hate it even more so in casual conversation as adults. Considering our plight as Black Americans, I find it purely appalling, downright shameful for any African-American man or woman to not be thoroughly engaged in the teaching and learning of history—be it in a classroom setting or in open discussions.
In regards to our language, the Black vernacular, etymologists proclaim we have contributed absolutely nothing to modern American language. Our native tongue has been taken from us and we’ve been brutally forced to assimilate with the dominate culture. In regards to our history, Black American and African history, the historian tells us we have yet to contribute anything worthwhile to be considered for serious critical and historical analysis. They won’t even give us credit for the election and reelection of Barack Obama! They tell us he’s not really Black, he’s mixed! If I understand history correctly, they’re the ones who came up with the “One-Drop” rule, not us. Our history, they say, begins and ends with slavery. I guess this explains why you can peruse through practically any history book and find a tiny chapter dedicated to our struggle; correction, not necessarily our struggle, but our sale, lease and ownership as American chattel—detested slaves, the Black smudge of Americanism. ‘Our’story begins far before the Europeans raped and ravaged Africa. It begins with the first human beings who ever walked this planet Earth. It begins with the first civilizations that began to sprout among the Nile River and the Great Rift Valley in what is now modern-day Ethiopia. It begins with the ancient empires of Kush, Sumer, Kemet, Timbuktu—civilizations that predated Greek and Roman societies. It begins with the first accounts of a spoken language, written and artistic expression through song, dance, and cave paintings. We are not primitive. We are a proud and dignified people.
“Until lions have historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” –African proverb
“Our”story has been taken from us, deliberately torn and shredded from the pages of time and history, and you mean to tell me you’re not enraged? For years, the only history taught in American schools, in both white and Black institutions, perpetuated stereotypes of inferiority, docility, imprudence, ignorance, apathy, aggression and violence that only fueled the relentless flames of racism that engulfed crosses of the Holy Trinity in front yards; flames that engulfed schools, churches, businesses, homes, PEOPLE! These flames of racism found itself at the Little residence where a young Malcolm along with 6 other sisters and brothers came running out into the cold as they watched their only home burn down; flames of racism that burned from the muskets used to gun down millions of innocent Black babies, women and men from the so-called Dark Continent during European conquest or more appropriately termed, the African Holocaust; it found itself chopping off hands and heads in the Congo of Africa; it found itself on the blade of the knife used to castrate thousands of Kenyan men in the Mau Mau insurrections.
Black man, Black woman, you are a fool! You’re brainwashed into feeling that the study of history has no interest, no concern to you whatsoever. As much as I absolutely hate the perpetuation of stereotypes, I probably hate Black men and women who find no interest in history just as disgusting and embarrassing. Do you not see your apathy or disinterest in our history not only continues to perpetuate a stereotype, but you’re also doing exactly what they want you to do! They don’t want you to know your history because to them, there isn’t any. You have none. How do you expect to teach your kids and your kid’s kids how to be proud sistas and brothas if you’re aren’t? And no, you can’t be a proud Black man or woman with no sense of history, no knowledge of self. You just can’t be.
“You can’t hate the roots of a tree and not hate the tree.” –Malcolm X
There’s a reason why they pulled your history from textbooks and only left the gruesomeness of slavery. Hell, some books even teach you that slaves were contented with their wretched condition! They exterminated “our”story because they want you to have no knowledge of self. They want you to understand that you are nothing without them. They gave you all that you have, all that you need, and that’s all that you need to know. Period.
Our moral and social upliftment does not begin until we begin to educate ourselves first, and then educate our children, while simultaneously educating others. The study of history teaches us to be proud Black men and women. It teaches us to learn from the mistakes of others while capitalizing on the talents of those we consider our shining Black achievements, our unsung heroes and heroines: Stokely Carmichael, Patrice Lumumba, Fannie Lou Hamer, Nina Simone, Fred Hampton, Shirley Chisholm, Marva Collins, Betty Shabazz, Myrlie Evers, Nat Turner. The list goes on. History teaches us to properly tool ourselves and our communities for the advancement of our people. It teachers us to be resilient, strong, powerful, dignified and unified with a strong sense of community. So don’t ever say you’re not interested in history. Engage yourselves in conversation. Listen. Learn. Educate. Black Thought & Renaissance