Linda Dunn: Let’s not ignore ‘uncomfortable’ history


Linda Dunn

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that while we are celebrating black history month in February, our legislators have been hard at work writing, revising and arguing for bills to eliminate black history from our public school classrooms and libraries?

History helps us all develop a better understanding of why and how society is structured today, which is crucial for raising the next generation of responsible citizens who can make positive contributions to our society.

We cannot build a framework on which to base our adult lives without first understanding how things work in the world. History paints us a detailed picture of how society, technology and government worked or didn’t work in the past so that we can better understand how it functions today.

Canceling any part of our heritage, whether it be to airbrush the warts off our founding fathers to make them more admirable heroes or literally burying the bodies of those who died in race massacres and calling them “race riots,” damages all of us.

Those of us who attended public schools in the 60s know very well what it means to grow up believing a whitewashed history and then discovering truths that lead you to question everything you ever learned.

The popular “Roots” series on television was probably a better education about slavery than most of us “Boomers” received in our respective public schools systems.

And yet there are groups that want to take us back to that era of ignorance. Apparently, our children are strong enough to be subjected to active shooter drills but too fragile to be exposed to certain types of educational material.

In Florida, they’ve introduced legislation that would ban schools from making people feel “discomfort” when taught about racial discrimination in U.S. History.

In Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin has established a “tip line” for parents to report teachers who are teaching “divisive subjects.”

Here in Indiana, state senator Sen. Scott Baldwin said “impartiality is necessary when teaching about Nazism and racism.” He has since backpedaled on that statement, but many of us would consider his statement a “Freudian slip.” He accidentally said what he really meant.

What do our legislators fear? That someone is going to teach about history in the mid 1920s when the Ku Klux Klan was at its greatest strength and a politician would have had a very difficult time winning election in Indiana if he didn’t have the KKK’s endorsement?

Yes, that is an uncomfortable piece of history. If it makes enough people uncomfortable, maybe they won’t be as likely to be fooled by hate groups trying to pass themselves off as something else by wearing polo shirts and carrying Tiki Torches.

I cannot understand why the same people that complain about “cancel culture” over a toy (Mr. Potato Head) and books (Dr. Seuss) are now seemingly proposing that we cancel black history. You cannot really understand many of the social mores and laws that still exist today if you don’t learn true facts about how and why these were first put into place.

Do we really want to go back to the days when we taught children that black people “emigrated” to America to work on plantations? And that most slave owners were kind people who treated their slaves like members of their family?

We honor the Tuskegee airmen on Veteran’s Day but gloss over why they were segregated by race. We don’t talk about the “Battle of Bamber Bridge” that occurred during WWII when our soldiers were supposed to be fighting Nazis but instead, armed themselves against one another because the locals responded to segregation demands by posting “colored troops only” signs at all three pubs. Many of us don’t even know that our black WWII veterans were systematically denied many of the same G.I. bill benefits enjoyed by white veterans.

Our history is filled with true facts that are uncomfortable for those of us who are members of the white race but those bits and pieces of hidden history could also inform us why minorities respond so differently to things that we see through a different lens.

A lifelong resident of Hancock County, Linda Dunn is an author and retired Department of Defense employee. Send comments to [email protected]