It’s taken a few days for me to properly formulate my feelings on a current controversial topic going on right now in the state of Tennessee. For those of you unaware of what is happening I am going to give you the brief rundown of this controversy. A group of Tea Party activists are currently pushing for textbooks to portray slavery in a much more positive light. According to the spokesperson for this group, they feel “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another…The thing we need to focus on about the founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn't existed, to everybody -- not all equally instantly -- and it was their progress that we need to look at.”
First of all let’s get something out of the way, some of the founding fathers owned slaves. This is a fact. Not all but to just ignore the fact that some of the most romanticized figures owned slaves is just sickening. It’s sickening because you are distorting history to fit this image that has been created. How about the father of this great nation George Washington? Yeah he owned over 200 slaves. Well what about Thomas Jefferson? Yep he owned over 100 slaves, and even had children with one of his slaves Sally Hemmings.
They owned people. Period. There is no white washing this fact. They did great things but they also did fucked up things. It happened it has to be acknowledged. History isn’t always good; you have to recognize the bad because these things affect this nation still.
How does this affect the nation to this day you be asking? Well for starters how about the guilt it still causes a vast amount of White Americans to this day. How about as a Black American it is almost impossible to trace my family history to a country of origin. And I won’t even get into more complex ideas of how slavery has affect family structure not to mention societal disadvantages.
"Neglect and outright ill will have distorted the teaching of the history and character of the United States. We seek to compel the teaching of students in Tennessee the truth regarding the history of our nation and the nature of its government," is what this group claims to have as its intentions. If you want students in Tennessee to know the truth you can’t minimalize slavery. It happened. It was a terrible crime against humanity. And to boil that down to “well it was cool at the time” is insulting to the memory of all of those who were brutalized and treated like less of a human being. We owe it to them and those both black and white who fought and some of whom died for their freedom.
The founding fathers were men. They were brave, but a lot of times they were wrong. Acknowledging this isn’t disrespectful, when you elevate them to a status of a deity and don’t acknowledge what’s uncomfortable that’s when you disrespect them.