We need to stop hiding from our history
Tanya Keskar | The Chronicle
It is easy to disassociate ourselves from our history. We are all humans living in 2023, a world with a different social and political structure than even a few decades ago. We trudge through history classes, a complicated pile of historical dates and people, and then hastily toss them to the side. But the reality is, our ancestors’ actions have built the world we are currently living in, and are crucial in understanding how to move forward.
There has been violence. There has been conflict.
From 1933 to 1945, the systematic murder of six million Jewish people occurred – the Holocaust.
The American government established Japanese internment camps to forcibly incarcerate innocent people of Japanese descent after the bombing of the American military base, Pearl Harbor.
As part of a federally funded US program, Native American children were routinely removed from their homes and put into boarding schools to assimilate them – preventing them from speaking their native language, giving them Anglo-American names and military-style clothing, forcing them to convert to Christianity, etc – a program that was in place until 1969.
People are not just statistics.
We cannot forget that these actions directly affected real people, with real lives, some of whom are still alive today. But we are not our ancestors. Our ancestor’s actions are not ours; we are not blamed for them, but we must learn about them and change, or the old adage becomes true: history is doomed to repeat itself.
Just two weeks ago, hundreds of residents in Atlanta, Georgia found antisemitic flyers on their driveways and in mailboxes.
According to the Indigenous Language Institute, only 175 out of the 300 Native languages that once existed remain in use today, and without measures to preserve these languages, estimates show that as little as 20 could be left by 2050.
In their most recent release, the FBI reported 8,673 hate crime offenses occurring in the US in 2021, and this only includes reported offenses. We are not over hate, bias or discrimination.
History is repeating itself, furthered by a lack of awareness of history by many Americans. Learning about some historical events can be scary and sad, but history is not perfect. We need the unfiltered truth.
At the same time, we do not have to dishonor or stop looking up to historical figures when we learn about something that disappoints us, but we do have to learn that it exists and acknowledge it.
Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company and known for revolutionizing the auto industry, also began publishing a weekly series in The Dearborn Independent that focused on furthering an antisemitic and now debunked hoax, claiming that there was a global Jewish conspiracy for money and power. He required immigrant employees to go through an English language school with a graduation ceremony that would have them dress up in the stereotypical attire from their native country and change into a suit and tie, to be assimilated into American society. He denied workers their full wages if home inspections did not meet his standards, opposed unions and let violence respond to protests, among other things.
With all of this knowledge, should we delete mentions of Henry Ford’s contributions from our history textbooks?
The answer is not to have less knowledge, but more. We can appreciate Ford’s contributions to society while still acknowledging and understanding the rest of his past.
In the future, so many of the things we do today are hopefully going to be very wrong. Many of us exist as passive bystanders to atrocities, due to our disassociation from the things we purchase and consume. The fast fashion industry hides labor exploitation and heavy carbon emissions with greenwashing and colorful packaging, and we are either gullible enough to fall for it, or we just ignore it out of convenience. It is easy to turn away from poverty in our community by being wrapped up in the stresses of our day-to-day lives.
But we cannot ignore today’s problems because we do not want to stand up to them. We cannot ignore history because we do not want to acknowledge it, as it is that closed mindset that prevents us from focusing on standing up to today’s problems.
Every small step is a step in the right direction. And it starts with learning all of our history, even the difficult parts.