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Our History is American History Too

No American can competently face today’s racial realities without knowing our country’s brutal past. Yet, across America, legislators are introducing and passing regressive bills to erase marginalized histories from the social studies curriculum and history textbooks used in classrooms for each grade level from kindergarten through grade 12. For example, Bill SB 3, which was passed near the end of 2021 in Texas, is designed to remove from the required curriculum “the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan along with discussion of the ways in which all of these things are morally wrong.” The Bill further mandates the removal of “the history of Native Americans” and elimination of “historical documents related to the civic accomplishments of marginalized populations,” including those related to “the Chicano movement,” “women’s suffrage and equal rights,” and “the American labor movement” from the curriculum. This is a long list events and people that is important for understanding racial history in America. All that would remain in curricula would be a condensed, even more whitened version of American history that ignores the triumphs, struggles and tragedies of marginalized Americans of color.

The progress in race relations America has made will suffer serious setbacks if we allow the next generation to be miseducated and prohibited from learning and talking about race and racism as well as sex and sexism. Systems of oppression (like systemic racism) are woven into the very foundation of American culture, society, and laws. Many people naively believe that discrimination has been outlawed and equality has been achieved, so we should simply treat people as human beings, rather than as racialized beings. This is largely due to the fact they are either ignorant of or haven’t been educated about the extent to which race still shapes many people’s life chances for equitable political, educational, health, environmental, social, and economic opportunities, as well as for meaningful and fair judicial redress.

Revisionist whitewashing of American history reproduces contemporary racial inequality, reinforces the oppression of marginalized social groups while elevating dominant social groups. It is the suppression our collective stories and legacies in America. Freeman Initiative’s American History is Our History Fund is used to amplify the voices, experiences, and perspectives of the people and communities most affected by these legislative measures and mobilize their challenges to these bills so that people like Harriet Tubman and Cesar Chavez, and events like “Martin Luther King Jr.’s… ‘I Have a Dream speech,” “the Emancipation Proclamation,” and “The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education,” are not arbitrarily eviscerated from classrooms.  America’s past is racist but with your help, our future does not have to be.