Lewis "Big June" Marshall Carrying the U.S. Flag, Selma to Montgomery March on March 21, 1965 (Courtesy of the estate of James Karales)
Lewis "Big June" Marshall Carrying the U.S. Flag, Selma to Montgomery March on March 21, 1965 (Courtesy of the estate of James Karales)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated with historical narratives — not revisionist or redactions but commentaries that reveal the truth — the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Ironically, the more I have studied and with each academic degree I have secured, what I’ve discovered is how often American history is told with calculated and numerous inaccuracies, invalid assumptions and outright lies.

Still, given the hard work I’ve put in during my sojourn along academia’s hallowed pathways and through its almost impenetrable portals, I have come to realize that there’s one important narrative to which I should have paid far greater attention but failed to do so. That story is the collective history of African Americans and Latinos whose people, despite being citizens, have suffered similar, if not identical, forms of injustice, bigotry and hatred on the shores of America — simply because of the color of their skin or the languages and traditions that have long defined them as ethnic groups.

The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, while speaking to a group of so-called liberal-minded men and women in Boston in 1862, stepped up to the podium before his audience of Northerners who probably expected him to berate the Confederate states. After all, according to the story we’ve always been told, it was the refusal of those in the South to relinquish their addiction to slavery and its inhumane methodology that had been one of the key reasons for the Civil War.

Instead, Douglass demanded that Northerners admit the role they had played in the catastrophe that nearly destroyed America. He showed his listeners that while they sought to maintain their innocence, that they had been willing participants in a country whose history was defined by decades of settler colonialism, corruption, the promotion of slavery and the support of imperialism.

It was Douglass’ determination to show Americans who they really were and his incisive attacks on the republic’s most sacred “myths” that often resulted in instances of physical violence from the hands of outraged spectators who did not want to or could not admit the truth.

In this 21st century, while white America would rather “revise” the history of their progenitors, the real stories behind the challenges and hardships encountered by African Americans and Latinos reflect far more commonalities than differences.

We have similarly been ridiculed because of our religious beliefs, our skin colors, our languages, our ways of rearing our children, our perceptions of nature and how we envision our relationship to the world and to one another. We have been refused service in America’s public spaces and public institutions. We have been denied the right to vote, the right to equal education, fair housing and equal access to business opportunities. We have been attacked, raped, beaten, lynched, murdered and falsely imprisoned. We have been forced to accept the crumbs from America’s table while presenting ourselves in such a manner that would indicate our gratitude for the few morsels and table scraps that white America has thrown our way.

But because I have been so overwhelmed with proving that I, as a Black man, am just as competent and qualified as any white man, I have paid scant attention to the problems that my Latino brothers and sisters have also endured — often overcoming.

I believe that was the intention of the Founding Fathers and those who have come after them and benefited most in our country for one reason and one reason alone: the color of their skin. Thus, if we can be distracted and if we fail to recognize how combining forces would be mutually and eternally beneficial to Blacks and Latinos, then we will never commit ourselves to a new mindset based on solidarity.

Maya Angelou often said in her poem “Human Family” that we are more alike than unalike. Her words, since I first had the privilege to read them and embrace the truth they reveal, have remained forged in my spirit and emblazoned upon my soul.

We are indeed “more alike than unalike.”

Perhaps if we can embrace this truth and begin to reform our stories into one narrative unfettered but falsehoods and without the filters that blind us from the truth, then maybe we, all of us, shall truly overcome and gain our rightful and hard-earned place in America’s history.

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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