There is an illusion regarding our country and its history that some of us follow, a fantasy that promotes the belief that over its two hundred years of existence, America is exceptional, proud of the words of its founding documents, faultless as a nation in its behavior, and its people superior to any other. There is also a resistance to the facts, and refusal to accept the true history of our nation. It may be best to look at what we fear.
Thomas Jefferson, who declared our freedom from the oppression of a tyrannical king, made his case writing “all men are created equal”, while at the same time owned Black men and women that worked his fields without compensation or hope for equality.
President Andrew Jackson dismissed the sovereignty of Native American lands and the congressional documents drawn to protect their ancestral homes, by banishing them to reservations west of the Mississippi River, many who would die on the journey.
The great fight for independence in Texas was not about freedom from the tyranny of Mexico, but a desire to institute an agrarian society mirroring that of the southern states and to get around Mexico’s legal prohibition of slavery.
Chinese immigration was encouraged when the railroad barons needed cheap labor to clear the land and lay the track, but the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 suspended Chinese immigration and declared Chinese immigrants ineligible for naturalization.
After our entry into World War II, 127,000 people of Japanese ancestry—more than two thirds American citizens—were forced to forfeit their homes, farms and possessions and were moved to concentration camps located in distant, isolated areas of our country for the duration of the war.
These are just a handful of difficult realities that cannot be ignored, but they help us to correct behavior that has no place in America. If we deny the facts of our past and insist upon an illusion of perfect harmony, will we lose sight of the injustices that exist today? If our schools’ teachers and administrators are not at liberty to instruct our children with the truth about America—good and bad—do we simply rely on a fantasy that never existed? Do we as parents trust that if our children are given the facts, they are capable of understanding and learning from the past? If we withhold that knowledge, what example do we set in the development of the next generation of citizens?