17 June 2011


Some people segregate historical narratives--e.g., the story of America--into histories of separate peoples. However, they cannot be separated without creating a sanitized, falsified history. A true historiography of America is the history of one country, not separate peoples. (And, yes, part of that narrative IS the legal segregation of "races" who were still in a relation with each other.) Explicitly, you cannot write the (white) history of America, as if there is a such thing, without writing alongside (actually within it) it the history of people of color in America. How would you write the narrative of the founding of (European) America without including the story of Native Americans? History is a fabric in which you cannot look at only the warp without the weave (there would be no "fabric," no substance).

 If there is any such thing as a "white history," it can only be understood as a relation with people of color in America. At the level of individual people, many white families in America (mine included) can only properly be understood by including (largely unacknowledged and unwritten) narratives of relations with blacks. No group "deserves" a "place"--that's segregated historiography; but the real story must be written and taught.

Historical themes and strands must be chosen. If a widely lauded and salient theme of America--what we are about and who we are--has been the historical development of freedom, liberty, democracy, empowering the common man, justice, and so on--how could you disinclude the narrative of black struggle for all these things? Is it not logical to make the case that this is one of the most important narratives in American (indeed world) history? This narrative can ONLY be written, not by segregating the story, but by including "black history" as integral to the American narrative.

1 comment:

a previous pupil of yours. said...

As a teacher - how do you weave such a fabric when, almost assuredly, the books you are given (or choose to take) tell the stories exactly how you describe? (as two separate entities - rather than one cohesive narrative)