The Making of Racists
The Unpaid Labor Project is based in American history. The history of the first 12 generations of African Americans is American history. The history of the first 12 generations of African Americans is also an unknown history. How can this be? One reason is that it is not taught in the schools. Another reason is that most people have not thought it to be important. Another reason is that it does not agree with what is taught about our country and its greatness. The history of a nation is what the majority says it is. That history is “true” whether or not it actually is.
In a fascinating interview in the Huffington Post, Dr. Donald Yacovone talks about his research into America’s textbooks. Dr. Yacovone is a PhD historian. He is an Associate at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He signed the Unpaid Labor Manifesto along with 55 other PhD historians. That document says,
“Americans of African descent have been vital to the American story since the beginning – and the contribution of the first 12 generations of Americans of African descent between 1607 and 1865 is the indispensable factor in the United States becoming the most successful nation in modern history.”
But what do the textbooks teach about the history of America and African Americans from before the time that slavery ended in 1865 right through to the 1980s? They teach White Supremacy. This is what Dr. Yacovone found in the first fifty or so textbooks he reviewed that were written from 1839 to the 1980s. Dr. Yacovone refers to this truth as “...the vast tectonic plate that underlies American culture...” Over 140 years and counting of a narrative that says, “The White Man’s History” and “...white priority, white domination, and white importance underlie every chapter and every theme of thousands of textbooks...” He also states “the themes, facts, and attitudes of supremacist ideologies are deeply embedded in what we teach and how we teach it.”
And what do the textbooks teach about African Americans? “...with few exceptions African Americans appeared only as a problem, only as “ignorant negroes”, as “slaves”,...that only posed “problems” for...white people of European descent.”
No wonder we have the “racial” division we have in our country today. We have all been taught it, Black people and White people alike. The disparities we see between Black and White people in every area of society are the symptoms of hundreds of years of this false teaching. It is the teaching of a 400-year old lie that says that White people are superior and that Black people are inferior.
But there is hope! American can began to Acknowledge its true history including the history of Contribution by African Americans as a whole. She can work to Abolish the false thinking that justified racial differences way back in the 1600s that continues today. She can use the knowledge of her true history to Advocate for national reconciliation between White people and Black people. Americans can and should do this for the sake of our nation, our people, and ourselves.