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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

US history glosses over racism, resistance

(Cloud Gamble)

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Everyone who completed grammar school in the United States has heard some form of this children’s rhyme. It is a great way for students to remember a pivotal date in American History.

The issue with this catchy phrase is that it hides the dirty reality of the event. By making it short and charming, teachers are able to browse over the trickery and murder that accompanied the discovery of our great land.

“It doesn’t matter how you feel about racism,” said Jorge Zeballos, Latino community coordinator and international student advisor. “We all come out of school with a racist outlook.”

On Nov. 18, the Center for Principled Problem Solving, along with the multicultural education department, hosted America’s Walk of Shame Through History, part of their White Privilege: Whiteness Series.

The event focused upon timelines that surrounded the walls of King Hall 126, and the lines separating racist events from acts of resistance. The discussion began by looking at 1492, with the real events that surrounded the story of Columbus, and went all the way to 2010, culminating with Arizona’s new immigration policy.

There were dates along the timeline that received special attention, typically linked to acts or policies that affected America’s identity. Some were controversial, with people unsure of why some items were placed on the timeline.

“Some policies can be seen as neutral on paper,” said Zeballos. “But, in execution, they are clearly racist.”

A great example of this can be seen with the USA Patriot Act, proposed by the U.S. Congress, and signed into law by George W. Bush on Oct. 26, 2001. It was meant to assist Homeland Security, but instead resulted in clear cases of racial profiling.

It was troubling to see the ratio of racist acts to examples of resistance.

Embarrassed by my lack of historical knowledge pertaining to the resistance of racism, I was quick to find a chair and take notes on the activity taking place.

Eventually we were told that this was a desired result of the activity.

White people are taught to feel guilty about the past, with countless events being directly linked to Eurocentric thought. The history of resistance is typically taught as the work of minorities, excluding the white partners that assisted the cause.

It is important to note the work of white activists in different situations, realizing the consequences and outright betrayal they were risking.

Without this knowledge, it is easy to feel some guilt about a nation founded on racism and bloodshed, with the acts usually performed by white Europeans. History classes, although beginning to shift, have typically been a nice, clean version of white oppression.

If history was taught differently, there would be a better discussion of the work done by people as a whole that resisted racism. It would remove a lot of the cultural separation that affects Americans every day, and hopefully help move toward a society in which history is not something to be feared.

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