On Sept. 10, The Daily Mississippian published an opinion column titled, “Rewriting our past only endangers our future.” This piece argued against teaching subjects like Critical Race Theory and in favor of teaching history in a way that reinforces America’s “sacrifice, humility, [and] integrity.”
This argument makes no sense. It is not that new history is being invented: the past has always been there, we are just bringing to light the parts of history that have been purposefully glossed over to paint America in a better light. I have experienced this glossing over of facts first hand.
In fourth grade, I remember being taught that Christopher Columbus was an amazing figure who only did wonderful things for America. When I took more advanced history classes in my later high school years, however, I was now told that Christopher Columbus not only did not technically discover anything, but also caused the deaths of thousands of indigenous people.
I had the same experience with the Pledge of Allegiance. I had to recite the pledge, along with my classmates, from kindergarten through fourth grade, until I moved to another school. In kindergarten, the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance was just something to recite that represented the unity of America. However, as I aged and learned more, I discovered the true, alienating origins including anti-immigrant and racist sentiments.
The origins of Columbus Day and the Pledge of Allegiance were not invented when I found them out. This information, instead, existed all along, and I was just now simply discovering it. If anything, the original way I learned about Columbus and the pledge was alternative history because the “history” purposefully left out key details in order to paint the beginnings of America in a more favorable light.
A big argument raging in the country now is surrounding critical race theory, which teaches that America’s “social institutions are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race.” People who oppose the teaching of critical race theory view it as a form of alternative history.
Critical race theory, however, is not alternative history — it is the real history. Everyone knows that history is written by the victors, those who have power at the time. Want to take a guess about who those people were? Property owning white men. So when State Representative LaShawn Ford tries to pause history teaching until the ‘real’ history is taught, he is trying to teach the history of those who did not have power when the events occurred.
In order to learn from history, we have to know our actual history. Sugar-coating the facts to promote patriotism will only serve to prohibit us from developing as individuals and as a nation. Wanting to teach and learn about the negatives of America is not saying that we hate America. It means just the opposite — that we love and care about the future of America.
If you truly love someone — or something — you are not going to stand by and let bad decisions be made and not hold those who are responsible accountable. Instead, you are going to make sure they own their past so that they can improve for the future.
Abigail Myers is a sophomore majoring in English and psychology from New Orleans, LA.