Op-EdOpinion

WILLIAMS: Guilt?

I’ve always enjoyed observing the unique behaviors of children. With them, what you see is what you get. They present an unvarnished, no-excuse look at human behavior and become genuinely interesting when they are old enough to understand the difference between right and wrong. Their cleanup after doing something they know (and you know) to be wrong can be creative and amusing. Most amusing are their efforts to pretend they are blameless or that your interpretation of reality is faulty or that what you see did not really happen. This behavior may be amusing in a child, but in adults, or as characteristic of a political system, an element of society, or an organizational structure, this behavior is abhorrent and inexcusable.

We witness this inexcusable conduct in the historical revisionism of the Republican Party. From them we learn that America’s “original sin” of RACISM and brutal violence against people of color was and continues to be a figment of our imagination. Like the child, but with the animus of white-hot racism, racist revisionist would have you believe that what we’ve seen, experienced, and know to be true didn’t happen or was misunderstood.

Any argument against this revisionism is considered “critical race theory” and is considered invalid. But REAL history is on our side! With the exception of humans who were kidnapped from Africa to perform “free” labor, whether openly articulated or not, Northern Europeans invaded this land with the intent to establish a racially exclusive enclave. Without a self-serving purpose for whites, people of color were expendable, as was their history, and the elimination of both was/is pro forma.

The history of America’s systemic violence toward people of color, even if only to eliminate an immediate or situational “problem,” is well-documented. Some of the most egregious events:

Wounded Knee (S.D.) Massacre (Dec. 29, 1890) — Over 300 (mostly unarmed) men, women, and children of the Lakota tribe killed by U.S. Cavalry.

Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) — Congressional immigration law denying Chinese (Asian) immigration into the U.S.

Red Summer (1919) — Across the nation, between April and November, there would be approximately 25 racially-based civil disturbances and instances of mob violence, and 97 recorded lynchings.

1919 Chicago Riot (July 27 – Aug. 3, 1919) — Violence sparked by whites in a beach incident when a Black man on a float crossed an imaginary line. Conflict followed for the next eight days with the loss of 25 Black lives and related property damage.

Elaine, Ark., Massacre (Sept. 30, 1919) — Sharecroppers attempting to organize for higher wages were attacked. Over 200 Black men, women and children were killed. Those attempting to defend themselves were tried criminally.

Tulsa Race Massacre (May 31 – June 1, 1921) — Over 300 Blacks killed and 35 square blocks destroyed. Black Wall Street demolished.

Rosewood, Fla., Massacre (Jan. 1-7, 1923) — Predominately Black town attacked and destroyed by white aggressors. Eyewitnesses estimate up to 150 people, mostly Black, killed.

Immigration Act of 1924 (which included the Asian Exclusion Act and National Origins Act) — Not only did this law ban immigration from the entirety of the Asian Continent, it restricted immigration from southern and eastern Europe.

These events and more — too numerous to count — color the history of our nation. Rather than acknowledging the truths of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ 1619 Project, Republicans and other revisionists vigorously advocate for a 1776 Project which colors the nation’s history in a more favorable light.

Just like Tulsa, where an obvious and deliberate effort to hide the facts of that injustice failed, events cannot be erased from the tablets of time. Revisionists who fear that guilt will promote a movement toward a more equitable society may just be right. The truth will always win!

Williams is president of the National Congress of Black Women.

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