WASHINGTON, December 8, 2014 — As a child, I would eagerly await history classes, particularly Black history month when I would learn about people who looked like me. Very quickly, I became exhausted from hearing the same narratives over and over again.
Black History was never about celebrating the lives of Africans or even the countless slaves who fought for the freedom of their brothers and sisters. Even the message of Doctor Martin Luther King was watered down and white-washed. It was presented in such a way that to critique the growing awareness around how far we have truly not come would seem like some great affront to our black ancestors.
The Black Panthers, who we know were attempting to celebrate and codify black neighborhoods run by and sustained by black people, were made to look like vicious terrorists who somehow hated the “American Dream.”
And in all these stories, violence stemming from white aggression was made to seem as the passive reactionary tools of ignorant children, thus in need of forgiveness and understanding.
At a very young age, I became very aware that America’s education system wasn’t designed to tell any truths in empowering black Americans. It was not made for us to be able to recognize the systems of oppression that were grooming people of color to become modern slaves to said system.
I also realized one tactic that was frequently used was denying the historical and modern reality of white aggression in nearly every instance it occurs.
The American psyche is fed denial of white aggression at an early age. We are told that Columbus discovered America, when in actuality, he did not. During that same history lesson, we are not told that Columbus also committed genocide and was a father of The American slave trade. We are given this illusionary narrative of peaceful white colonist integrating slowly into American society when in reality, native Americans were betrayed. White colonist broke treaties, committed genocide and perpetuated religious colonist doctrines.
And they did this all under the guise of “doing the work of God”.
At the heart of white aggression is the idea that whoever is on the receiving end of that brutality is less than human. This is not limited to people of color, but includes any white person who is consider by the standards of white patriarchy to be “inferior”. This includes brutalization of white wives by the white husbands.
Now we are in a time when police brutality is once again at the forefront of media attention.
As we ask ourselves how Darren Wilson, George Zimmerman and a host of other white men go free after killing black women and men, we must also think of the culture of white aggression.
White aggression is seen as a passive resort to keeping the peace. It is a dominant, powerful paradigm and one sometimes imitated and praised by those who feel less empowered. As we see, it is not only white people who take on the role of aggressor or of the powerful flexing their muscle against the more vulnerable.
This culture is based on on both the idea that people of color and those who challenge the elite systems are less than human, in need of taming, and perpetuates the lie that the white men allowing and committing these crimes are not to blame.
It also relies on the education system and governmental bodies to sanction erasure.
Media portrays the riots of African Americans as an upsetting of the peace. Black rage is taught as irrational and lacking in historical evidence. In contrast, white rioting against black communities — such as the 1921 Tulsa riots in which white mobs attacked peaceful black communities — are either twisted into some justified action or ignored by history.
When we do not teach the forms that white aggression have taken in the history of America and face them truthfully, we excuse the modern context in which it stills cost black lives and displays how our “justice” system continues to fail black Americans.
When we do not call the horrific tactics colonist took to maintain white dominance in America terrorism, we are not being truthful. When we do not teach about the lies white colonist told to people of color on this soil, we are not being truthful. When we do not teach about the true horrors of slavery, we are not being truthful.
When we pretend the “law keeping” system historically did not also contribute to Native Americans being massacred and black Africans and their decadents (black Americans) being keep enslaved with echoes of that violence still being found today; we are not being truthful.
When we continue to teach white aggression as a passive reactionary tool, not a by-productive of racism which itself is ingrained in every aspect of our society; we are not being truthful.
It’s time for America to start having conversations steeped in historical truth because now, we see history repeating itself.
The systems given birth to by white aggression and it’s hatred of anyone who isn’t a white man continues to ask for black people to be silent while it attempts and often succeeds in murdering us while leaving our brothers and sisters for dead.