Juneteenth vs. The "White Filter" on History

How a man's good deeds get overshadowed and lost in the violence of the past.

Black History Vs. The Texas Board of Ed

When you ask any white person over the age of thirty about JuneteenthGreenwoodor Black Wall Street, more often than not they won’t know what you’re talking about.

When you ask them to name significant contributions to the world which were made by African Americans from the past, they’ll more than likely only be able to name a handful of people such as Martin Luther King, George Washington Carver, Fredrick Douglas, Rosa Parks, or Harriet Tubman.

But there were other great African Americans whose accomplishments are still relevant even though the name of their creator has faded over time.

Dr. A. C. Jackson was one such person.

Dr. Andrew Chesteen Jackson was a nationally recognized surgeon who was said by the Mayo Clinic to be the best African-American surgeon in the country. He was a specialist in “chronic diseases and surgery for women” and treated patients of all races.

Dr. Jackson created some of the most innovative surgical tools that are still being used today in some fashion or form. His contributions to the medical world are still an influence on surgical students.

Yet most white Americans don’t know of this man since, in the majority of our school systems, history is taught through a “white filter.”

This is due to the fact that the most history textbooks are published by a handful of publishers and they’ve  been heavily influenced for decades by one of their largest customers, The Texas Board of Education. Time and time again this board has been found to be pushing a right-wing, conservative christian agenda into our nation’s textbooks, which either waters down or completely filters out: American Indian Genocide, African American historical figures,  the horrors of slavery, and any mentions of Lesbian or Gay history.

What we end up with are school textbooks that feed students a sanitized fantasy of lone white settlers struggling to create a nation, instead of the hard, uncomfortable truth of white racists stealing land and killing it’s original occupants, then enslaving, oppressing and installing a systemically racist society.

With decades of this kind of programming in our education system is it any wonder that White Americans are so ignorant of their country’s history?

However this is no excuse for racism and hatred.

It’s akin to driving through an intersection which had the stop sign torn down through an act of vandalism. It doesn’t give one the right to run down pedestrians in the crossing, nor is it an excuse for ignorance to say because the sign isn’t currently there, it never existed.

“Throughout American history there’s been a vast silence about the atrocities that were performed in the service of white history. . . . There are a lot of silences in relation to this story, and a lot of guilt and shame,” On the Tulsa Race Massacre,
Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Museum curator Paul Gardullo,

Celebrate accomplishments, not tragedies.

The other reason Dr. A. C. Jackson is noted in history is that he was one of the most prominent residents in the  Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921, and was brutally murdered during the The Tulsa Race Massacre. This was one  of worst acts of  racist terrorism to take place in the United States after the end of Slavery. Yet mentions of it and other racially motivated violence were largely hidden from US historical teachings until the 1970s.

The fact that this great man, who helped so many people, has become a footnote in the details of racist violence is an affront to humanity. A man should be remembered for his deeds and actions, not his tragic end. But as we’ve seen this is just another in a long line of wrongs which Black Americans have had to unjustly endure in our country.

If we’re ever to correct those wrongs, the “white filter” on American history needs to be removed. African American achievements need to be honored and celebrated year round and not just relegated to the shortest month of year.

“In all of my experience I have never witnessed such scenes as prevailed in this city when I arrived at the height of the rioting. Twenty-five thousand whites, armed to the teeth, were ranging the city in utter and ruthless defiance of every concept of law and righteousness. Motor cars, bristling with guns swept through your city, their occupants firing at will.’”  — Adjutant General Charles J. Barrett, The New York Times, June 3, 1921


Then There’s Trump...

Willful ignorance of America’s true history is one of the main drivers behind the continued racial violence in the U.S. There’s no better example of that kind of disregard for Black history than the Trump rally currently planned to happen in Tulsa, Oklahoma the day after Juneteenth.

Aside from the obvious pandemic dangers posed by Trump’s planned Tulsa rally, the absolutely tone deaf, self obsessed Trump and his rally embodies everything that’s wrong with our country’s views on race, history and the American experience. The Bloviator-in-Chief and his followers only view the world through their short-sighted callowness, and that must change.

Thankfully the George Floyd protests are helping to remove those “white filters” from the eyes of more White Americans. They are beginning  to see the cold hard truth of America. With the tearing down of every Confederate statue, the removal of racist politicians and school boards, and the airing of every police abuse video, America becomes a more equitable country with a vastly richer heritage.


Further reading on the Tulsa Race Massacre:
The Nation, 1921
Wikipedia
NPR
The Smithsonian


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