This week it was brought to my attention that a small portion of a blog I wrote titled, It’s Time We Had A White History Month was included in a Lexington-Herald Leader Op-ed by Will Simpson. Simpson wrote an opinion piece titled, Some Parents Have Real Concerns About Anti-White Bigotry They See From Ky Teachers. The op-ed was a poor attempt to show that Critical Race Theory is being taught in elementary, middle, and high school, which it is not. I have covered my thoughts on Critical Race Theory extensively, so this article will not be about that. I understand that Critical Race Theory is a term that some have co-opted to become yet another tactic to cause division in this nation. It is being used as a catchall phrase that includes any history about any race besides White people.
Even the title of Simpson’s Op-ed, “some parents,” is questionable. When he says “some parents,” I would like to know what parents? When you read titles like that, understand the White is always silent, but it is there. He doesn’t mean parents like myself because I have no issues with my daughter (when she was in school) or my niece (currently in elementary) learning Black history or any true history about this nation. When I read articles or poorly written arguments like Simpson’s about Critical Race Theory, I hardly ever see conversations from Black parents, Indigenous parents, etc., included. White parents are always the focus of this conversation about teaching accurate history. I would respect Simpson as a writer if he dared to write what he was really thinking. He really wanted to say that White parents have real concerns, which is the lens through which he is writing. Secondly, I am not a Kentucky teacher, so how I am in the article if the title says KY teachers baffles me. Simpson states, “In Jefferson County middle schools, a friend’s daughter came home with a flyer from a “community group.” What community group? The facts aren’t all there for any reader to form their own opinion, but the Lexington-Herald Leader chose to run the op-ed so let’s go with that.
Simpson goes on to say, “When I look up the people promoted on the flyer and exposed to students as “leaders,” I will find a blog post titled “It’s Time We Had a White History Month,” that berates white people with “You enslaved innocent black men, women, and children, you murdered innocent black people, you raped a nation of its resources for your profit,” and “You have committed some of the most heinous, egregious crimes against humanity.” But CRT doesn’t exist.”
Simpson didn’t link to my blog (nor show the flyer) but took a portion of my blog in an attempt to prove a weak point. That is not how writing works, which is probably why Simpson shouldn’t do it. As a writer, I believe you present the entire truth or at the very least provide a link to my blog so people can read it for themselves. If he read the whole piece, I would welcome Simpson to disprove one thing in the blog. The entire blog is factual. It is historically accurate. In fact, the things I listed were just a few of the crimes against humanity. I could have gone on for pages upon pages.
The problem with people like Will Simpson is that he believes the truth is anti-White. The truth is not anti-White the truth is just the truth. Race isn’t a factor in the truth. The truth just is. History just is. None of us can go back in time and change anything that happened. It is done. The facts are the facts. The problem is people like Simpson have constructed, believed, and continue to perpetuate a narrative about White people in America that is simply not true. As I stated in my blog when it comes to slavery in America, “entire organizations were established, such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the late 1800s, to construct and disperse the lie that slavery was benign, and enslaved people were happy. They worked to spread these lies in textbooks and continued recycling the lie to young children until the reality of slavery was whitewashed. That is the truth. I understand that it hurts to realize that almost everything you have been taught and told about your race is a lie. In fact, it is not that White people were born to be victors, but in reality, White people have victimized everyone for the betterment of themselves.” I stand on the truth that White people have committed some of the worst, if not the worst, crimes against humanity. That is simply factual. The problem with teaching and learning real history for people like Simpson is the truth doesn’t feel good. It makes you uncomfortable. But who told you facing the truth would feel good and be comfortable?
I make absolutely no apologies for what I write and how I write it. In fact, I am clear on my About Page, “So, if you are coming to this blog and expecting to cuddle up with a steamy cup of hot cocoa and “Please-give-me-a-reward-for-doing-the-right-thing” cookies, I don’t bake so I suggest you stop right here.” This is not the blog for you to feel good. I am not writing so that you feel good. I am writing to challenge the very way you think.
I remember I asked a good friend of mine to tell me one place in the world, the world as a whole, that is better off for the people already there when White people came to it? He’s a very studied and intellectual man with a Ph.D., and he sat and thought for a long time, and tears filled his eyes, and he said, “I cannot tell you one place.” I knew he didn’t want to say that. I knew he was crying because that hurt him to admit that. Is HE a bad person? Absolutely not. He is one of my best friends, but he faced a reality about his race that he had never considered before. And it hurt. But it was the truth, and he couldn’t deny it.
Contrary to what Simpson thinks, learning the truth isn’t anti-White is just the truth. The history of America and my focus is enslavement in America is an ugly, painful truth that America wants to hide and pretend never happened. But it did.
For instance, when I visited Natchez, Mississippi, I started touring plantation homes. Admittedly these homes are stunning. They were huge mansions, and some of the houses still had the original furniture and bedding. Some homes even had the original china. One home had a solid gold chandelier. While these homes were beautiful, they all started to look alike after a while. And I asked a tour guide in one of the homes, “I know I would not have been in this home. So, take me where I would have been.” She nonchalantly responded and said, “Oh, I’m sorry we have torn down all of our servant quarters or bricked them all over and made them into offices.”
Just like that, the history of my people, where they lived, slept, ate, prayed, and bore children, was gone—bricked over. Whitewashed. It was erased as if it had never happened. That is what America wants to do with the history of Black people in America. You cannot enslave people for hundreds of years and then pretend it never happened. The blood always cries out.
It is a stark contrast to what my friend and colleague Josh Miller experienced last week when he visited Berlin, Germany. While Josh was in Berlin, he visited the “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe” after being in Salzburg, Austria, for the first Cross-Atlantic Creativity Congress (CACC). Josh and I are working together on the (Un)Known Project, creating artistic spaces and monuments to honor those enslaved in America. I was very curious to learn about his visit, knowing his work with the Unknown Project. When he returned, he showed me several pictures from his trip. I actually had to fight back the tears watching him scroll through them. I asked him about some of his reflections, seeing the difference in how Berlin tells the story of the Holocaust and how America tells the story of enslavement. He said, “The Memorial was really powerful. Above ground, it used 2,711 rectangular concrete slabs to honor the dead with a physical installation that gave you a sense of the vast number of people murdered. Below ground – multiple rooms featured historical photos, documents including poems and letters written by Jews murdered during the Holocaust, and stories to recount what happened. The amount of information that has been documented and brought forward helps to provide an in-depth picture of what people experienced. As one quote on the wall by Primo Levi read: “It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say.” It reminds us why this type of space and telling of history is so important.”
Josh told me about the Room of Names and in the description it stated, “Reading the names and life stories of all six million victims in this form would take about six years, seven months, and 27 days.” I couldn’t help but think of all the names of enslaved Black people, the millions of names buried, hidden, labeled as unknown. I thought about the names we are discovering through our project. Why is America still fighting to hide those names and the history?
In Berlin, they remember. It is not hidden. The Holocaust happened. Millions of Jewish people were taken from their homes and separated from their families. They were starved, beaten, tortured, murdered, and then thrown into mass graves as if they were trash. This happened, and it is acknowledged. They are not running from that history even though it is a gruesome history. They are not pretending it didn’t happen; they understand that it happened so it can happen again, like the quote Josh mentioned.
That is the difference in America. There is no denying what happened in Germany. And they have embraced this history and are going to use pathways such as art to tell the story. As I looked at Josh’s photographs of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, it was evident this was not a few thousand dollars thrown at a group to tell the story of the Holocaust. The memorial cost approximately €25 million. In America, that would be a little over 27 million dollars. All I could think about was how Josh and I fight for funding to tell the story of enslavement in Kentucky. Still, we are working diligently to exhume the hidden names and stories. Enslaved people were here, and they deserve to be remembered.
The National Monument Audit study (conducted by Monument Lab and one of the Unknown Project funders, Andrew Mellon Foundation) found that of the approximate 50,000 conventional monuments represented in every US state and territory, 0.5% is dedicated to representing enslaved people and abolition efforts. Not even 1% of the public art landscape is dedicated to telling the story of slavery in America. A period in our history that shaped this nation to this day. The study also revealed that 40 million dollars of taxpayer funds are spent to preserve Confederate symbols and sites. What are we fighting to honor in this country? What stories are we fighting to tell, and what stories are we fighting to hide?
I wonder what America could be if it faced itself? What could America be if it taught real history? What could America be if we changed the landscape of our monuments to use them similar to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe to tell the story of enslavement in America? What are we so afraid of? The truth isn’t what should divide us or cause fear. Learning the lessons the truth offers is what will bring us together if we ever want to move towards healing. However, one of the first steps of healing is acknowledging that something has happened. There is no healing without admitting and telling the truth. There is no healing without facing the truth. If America ever wants to be what it can be, we must tell the story accurately.
That is not racist.
That is not bigotry.
That is not anti-White.
That is the truth. And I stand on it.