Friday, April 18, 2008

Hearts and Minds

I am beginning to think that one of the problems blacks face today is that our history is not taught in schools. The effects of humiliation and institutional racism was not taught to me in school. I didn't know that it was near impossible for blacks in Mississippi to get loans in the mid 1900's until my aunt told me. I didn't really understand what was at the heart of the civil rights movement until recently.

I had never taken the time, and was never asked, to contemplate the long term effects of these things on a family.

What I learned about black history was actually pretty sterilized. An illustration of a smiling Harriet Tubman as she helped slaves get through the underground railroad. The lesson leaned more on adventure than on what these people were trying to escape.

In third grade I learned about how a man named Martin Luther King, Jr. gave eloquent speeches and then was murdered. But why, exactly? What was so bad that he felt it was worth risking his life to fight against it? When I was in school the focus was on the most common names in African-American history and on telling their stories of heroism. The focus was not on why the African-American community needed heroes in the first place.

It amazes and baffles me to think that some people really believe that racism was eradicated when a law was past. Did prohibition keep people from drinking? Were there abortions before Roe v. Wade? Anna Quindlen said about the women's movement that we changed laws but we didn't change hearts and minds. I think that, to some degree, the same can be said about the civil rights movement.


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