The recent mock slave auction at a high school in California is more than egregious—it proves that when students are not taught the truth of American history—they find it humorous and lack empathy for the experiences of others. According to the Yuba City Unified School District’s Superintendent Doreen Osumi: “Reenacting a slave sale as a prank tells us that we have a great deal of work to do with our students so they can distinguish between intent and impact. They may have thought this skit was funny, but it is not. It is unacceptable and requires us to look honestly and deeply at issues of systemic racism.”
America has a real issue in discussing the hard truth of race. In Dallas, Texas, Big D Reads is a citywide initiative to read The Accommodation: The Politics of Race in an American City by Jim Schultze. More than 30,000 copies of the book have been printed and distributed. With many panels and discussion groups to review the content, the book is unearthing a history that many are unaware of or would like to forget.
Yet, without discussing the past, we do not understand the correlation to the challenges we face today. When schools and parents choose not to educate themselves about those issues that are uncomfortable, the discomfort results in more damage. I’m excited that Dallas is willing to take a deep look at its past. It’s an opportunity for other cities to do the same. It’s an opportunity to remember, reflect, and rectify.
My deceased father’s bout with cancer taught me a lot about unresolved issues. The doctors treating him realized the seriousness of his illness, the quick spread and progression of the cancer. Despite numerous treatments, because it was not found early, the cancer spread. Racism is a cancer. Continual dialogues are important but without addressing the wounds, we face not only more episodes of youth and adults behaving badly, but we are also placing a band-aid on something that requires deeper introspection, investment and long-term commitment beyond lip service.
The Bible reminds us of the importance of knowing our history. We are called to remember. The word ‘remember’ is found 240 times in the Old and New Testaments.
The Israelites were told repeatedly to remember their journey of captivity out of Egypt: “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these 40 years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not,” Deuteronomy 8:2.
It’s strange that as Christians, we understand this and embrace it but for some reason, believe it only applies to that era. “Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you,” Deuteronomy 32:7. There are consequences when we choose to forget: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent,” Revelation 2:5. Even the Lord’s Supper that most congregations conduct monthly are a reminder of the sacrifice Christ made for us.
Remembering is not an option, because forgetting is dangerous.
Maybe why many of us want to forget the past is because we don’t want to take responsibility for the present. It allows the opportunity to shift responsibility to others and make them believe it’s their problem. The reality is that when we choose to ignore the past, we are destined to repeat it. The issues of the past impact us all whether we choose to believe it or not. Equity doesn’t mean someone has to lose for someone else to win. If we only tell half of the story, we all lose just like that football team. The team forfeited the season, and the consequences are far reaching beyond those directly involved. The impact goes beyond the immediate community and spreads—just like racism.
Our destinies are intertwined—whether you want to acknowledge it or not.
(Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew is the CEO of Soulstice Consultany <drfroswabooker.com> and the founder of the R2 Foundation <r2fdn.org>. She is the author of four books including Empowering Charity: A New Narrative of Philanthropy by Baylor University Press and the host of the Tapestry podcast.)