By Dr. E. Faye Williams
Some of my “vintage” or “experienced” readers may remember or actually saw the movie “Birth of a Nation.” Not the 2016 Nate Parker version — I’m referring to the 1915 silent film, originally called “The Clansman,” by D. W. Griffith. In short, it glorified the KKK and denigrated civil and human rights for formerly enslaved per- sons using the “Black man, white woman” paradigm.
Although praised at its release, the original “Birth of a Nation” is now understood as a gross misrepresentation of reality and historical revisionism at its worst. What it did was give cover and justification for the racist social constructs of the antebellum South and the general acceptance of the theory and practice of white racial superiority in the nation.
Across the Potomac River in Virginia, a mere 31 miles as the crow flies, from Washington, D.C., lies Loudoun County, Virginia. Loudoun is the fastest-growing county in Virginia and is listed as the wealthiest county in the United States. By most measures, including the newness of housing and commercial structures, supporting infrastructure, and the quality of schools, Loudoun is a desirable place to live and raise a family.
One could reasonably believe that, given the academic and technical skills necessary to command the salaries necessary for the designation of wealthiest county in the nation, Loudoun is a well-educated and enlightened community. Since, by my definition, education is an ongoing endeavor and enlightenment is the willingness to explore the full dimensions of the truth, calling Loudoun well-educated and enlightened is an arguable proposition.
Sadly, Loudoun, like many other social arenas, is currently embroiled in a controversy related to the teaching of “Critical Race Theory” in the Loudoun County Public Schools. The interim school superintendent asserts that CRT is not being taught, yet there is vigorous opposition to that type of instruction in the schools.
Opponents of CRT assert that it is anti-American and that it teaches students that America is racist, American culture is inherently bad, and that America’s entire system must be radically altered to make it better. Listening to a local D.C. radio news station, I heard a person identified as a Loudoun public school history teacher claim that CRT imposed feelings of guilt on white students and a sense of inferiority upon African American students.
It is open to argument, but my assessment of that teacher and others who protest against CRT is that “their” misunderstanding of historical truths and personal feelings of guilt inspire their opposition. My reality informs me that, just as America has made great accomplishments and led innovation to the benefit of the world, it has a history of violence, brutality and ruthlessness that has been encoded in its genetic profile.
To reject the truth of CRT (America’s racism) is to ignore and deny:
- The dispossession of Native America lands and the “Indian Wars” which eradicated generations of native people.
- The establishment of “Indian Schools” which had the ex- pressed purpose of destroying Native American language and culture.
- The brutal, more than 200-year enslavement of Africans kid- napped from their homeland.
- The denial of full participation in the American lifestyle (Jim Crow laws).
- The innumerable rapes, lynchings and murders of people of color.
- The “documented” systemic exclusion of people of color from educational, employment and housing opportunities.
- The duplicitous pattern of policing in communities of color.
- A myriad of other racially inspired physical and emotional indignities and assaults.
To those who oppose CRT, I will not allow your embarrassment or guilt to erase the truths of our collective histories. I will not sit quietly while you ignore our past and continue with your opportunistic patterns of discrimination. My voice will ring loudly! As for your guilt, get over it!
Dr. E. Faye Williams is national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. Contact her via www.nationalcongressbw.org.