I Know That I Don't Know
If it hadn't been on the news this morning (and earlier in the week), I probably would not have realized that today is the 1st anniversary of George Floyd's death. It's not necessarily something I want to remember, but it's something I need to remember. His death and the protests that followed are an important part of history.
History is something we all need to learn about and learn from. I used to think I had a pretty good handle on American history. I DID have a good amount of knowledge of what I was taught. However, history lessons cannot end with high school or college. History goes on. History is made daily. I owe it to myself to continue my education and learn more about the world that I live in, even without a classroom.
It's also important to acknowledge that history lessons cannot just come from one textbook. Too often in the past (which is all I can speak to since I am no longer in a classroom) history was presented in an exclusive (and NOT inclusive) perspective. In truth, history is not always cut and dried. History is messy. History can be uncomfortable. It is that uncomfortable, messy and even painful history that we need to learn and hopefully grow from.
I have to wonder if I would have known about the internment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II if I hadn't taken an honors history class in high school where I was required to write a paper on a Supreme Court case. I chose Korematsu v. United States and was shocked to find that Korematsu lost the case. (Fred Korematsu was arrested for not submitting to relocation.) How could the government force its own citizens into internment camps just because of their ancestry? (I know that's over simplifying.) It was an eye opening assignment for me.
I learned about the Wounded Knee Massacre in high school because I had a teacher who was passionate about Native American history. If not for her passion would this have just been a brief paragraph in a book that would not have made an impact on me?
Furthermore, if it weren't for recent (and tragic) events would I know about such disgraceful events as the Atlanta Massacre of 1906, the Ocoee Massacre of 1920 and Tulsa Massacre in 1921.
I've come to realize that there is so much I don't know. There is so much I SHOULD know. It is up to me to continue to education.
One of my favorite musicals is "1776" and there is a great line from it spoken by John Adams: "Well, I'll never appear in the history books anyway. Only you. Franklin did this, and Franklin did that, and Franklin did some other damn thing. Franklin smote the ground and out sprang George Washington - fully grown and on his horse. Franklin then electrified him with his miraculous lightning rod and the three of them, Franklin, Washington and the horse, conducted the entire revolution all by themselves." Funny, but telling. How many people would prefer a simple and neat history? How many history books were written with a narrow view; one that was easy to digest?
As Americans, we want to consider our nation as great. But we cannot be great unless we acknowledge all our messy history. When we realize that our "wins" result in losses for others. History is NOT simple; it's complicated. We need to study the complications. We need to talk about the bad along with the good. There's so much we don't know..and don't we want to know?