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As we grapple with the legacies of white supremacy, the latest episode unfolding in Florida's education system is a stark reminder of the unresolved racial animus in this country. The Florida Board of Education's recent decision to distort historical narratives – suggesting slavery benefited enslaved Black people by imparting skills and that violence was mutually perpetrated during the 1920 Ocoee massacre – is a calculated assault on truth and an attempt to sanitize a history soaked in the blood of innocent Black lives.
The idea that slavery, an institution of brutal subjugation and inhumanity, somehow bore "personal benefits" for those enslaved is not only a gross misinterpretation of history but also a dangerous attempt to recast the horrors of slavery in a softer light. The "skills" enslaved people "developed" resulted from violence, coercion, fear, and systemic rape and murder enforced by the whip, the noose, and the iron collar.
Similarly, portraying the CITY OF OCOEE massacre as a bout of reciprocal violence is grotesque. This event was a deliberate, one-sided act of violence intended to suppress the African American vote – the most fundamental expression of democratic participation. Dozens of Black residents were killed, their lives snuffed out in a horrifying display of racial violence. This happened hundreds of times from emancipation to World War II when white mobs raised prosperous African American towns to the ground.
The recent instance of revisionist history we are witnessing, which seems calculatedly designed to alleviate the guilt of white America, is not an isolated incident but rather part of a deeply entrenched and frankly alarming trend. While white America may think we're progressing, this steady move towards comforting white guilt says otherwise. This pervasive pattern includes a spectrum of distortions, from the whitewashing of the Trail of Tears to the conspicuous downplaying of the atrocities committed under the regime of Jim Crow laws. It even goes so far as to spin the Tulsa Massacre. This horrific event saw one of the most prosperous Black communities in the United States slaughtered by a white mob, and then the narrative turned into nothing more than a "race riot." Last week an Oklahoma judge dismissed the Tulsa race massacre reparations case filed by the last known survivors.
Each instance of historical distortion and misinformation, while unique in the particular elements it seeks to misrepresent or erase, shares a common and pernicious intent: to mask the true depths of the monstrosity of white supremacy, to deflect blame onto the victims, and to avoid any sense of accountability or reparative justice. This continuous muddying of historical facts undermines the severity and extent of systemic racism embedded in the very fabric of our nation. This is not intangible. It affects Black People's fight for reparations and this country's longevity.
In an added layer of irony, white communities have long perpetuated harmful stereotypes of other races as inherently violent or dangerous, a damaging and false narrative that fosters fear and division. Yet, let's turn the lens of scrutiny onto historical fact rather than fiction. It becomes evident that white communities have been responsible for the vast majority of violence in this country's history. From the violent subjugation and genocide of indigenous people during the colonization era, the savagery and wickedness of chattel slavery, the evil and terrorist lynchings and race massacres of the Reconstruction and Jim Crow periods, to the modern systemic nature of police brutality disproportionately inflicted on communities of color, the evidence is inescapable. This irony – that those frequently labeled others as violent are responsible for most of the country's historical and ongoing violence – exposes the double standards inherent in the narrative of white innocence. This forms another insidious aspect of white supremacy: the manipulation of records to preserve its power at the expense of truth and justice.
A cartoon by illustrator Thomas Nast shows a member of the White League and a member of the Ku Klux Klan joining hands over a terrorized black family.
But we must not let these attempts to rewrite history go unchallenged. To deny the monstrous nature of these events is to deny the reality of the suffering endured by generations of marginalized communities. If we hope to confront and defeat the insidious beast of white supremacy that still casts its shadow over our nation, we must grapple with the truth of our past, however uncomfortable it may be.
However, we are duty-bound not to let these white-ass attempts to rewrite history stand without a fierce and unyielding challenge. To accept this falsification is not merely an academic error but a moral betrayal of those who have suffered, bled, and died under the crushing weight of racism. It is to deny these events' monstrous nature and whitewash the reality of the agonizing torment endured by countless generations of marginalized communities. The stakes of this battle are nothing less than the lives of our brothers and sisters, our children, and the very soul of our nation.
We are now called to arms in a war against the insidious, slithering beast of white supremacy that continues to cast a long, lethal shadow over our nation. The battlefield of this war is not merely our schools or our streets but the hearts and minds of every individual in this country. The weapon I choose to wield is truth, in all its raw, untamed power. We must grapple with this truth of our past, however ghastly and uncomfortable. Only by confronting these horrifying realities head-on can we hope to dismantle the systemic oppression that feeds the beast.
For those who are compelled to protect the sanctity of historical truth and join us in this fight, there are several organizations tirelessly working toward this cause that need your support:
ASALH: Association for the Study of African American Life and History – Founded by Carter G. Woodson, often referred to as the "Father of Black History," ASALH is an organization that promotes, researches, preserves, interprets and disseminates information about Black life, history, and culture to the global community. The organization is committed to preserving the integrity and accuracy of Black history and has been instrumental in challenging distortions and omissions in the historical narrative.
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture – A Smithsonian Institution that seeks to understand American history through the lens of the African American experience.
The Southern Poverty Law Center – An organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.
The Equal Justice Initiative – A nonprofit organization providing legal representation to marginalized communities and working to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment.
The Native American Rights Fund – The oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Native American tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide.
Together, we can protect history and help shape a future defined by justice and truth.
Lastly, if you want to support your mostly friendly neighborhood Black activist, consider becoming a Patron to help sustain my efforts. Your contribution can collectively make a substantial difference, even if it's just the equivalent of a couple of cups of coffee each month. https://www.patreon.com/khafrejay