Saturday, January 17, 2015

#BlackLivesMatter in history and historians who don't get this.

#BlackLivesMatter is a hash tag used in regards to public policy and practice involving policing and the justice system where obviously Black lives don't seem to matter much. The choking death of an African American man in a arrest involving the sale of a few loose cigarettes in New York City is an example where it seems that Black lives were disposable.

In the last few days I began to realize that #BlackLivesMatter could also be a call to change the practice of historians, to study and write history understanding that #BlackLivesMatter.

For example biographers and historians who minimize the racist policies of Woodrow Wilson are those for whom Black lives don't matter.

More specifically among those involved in Civil War history for whom Black lives don't seem to matter it would be those avoid recognizing the racial agenda of some of those involved in Civil War history. It would be those who make excuses for the Museum of the Confederacy and its historical practice. It would be calling neo-Confederate groups "Southern heritage" groups. It would be being involved in commemorations at Confederate monuments. It would be those Civil War historians that seek to minimize slavery as the cause of the Civil War.

It would also apply to some of our public school textbooks.

It would certainly apply to those use minimizing language over conflicts over Confederate symbols, like journalists who use terms like "flag flap." Would they every use the term "history hissyfit" over holocaust denial, absolutely not.

It would apply to churches that host neo-Confederate groups.

It would be for those who don't have necessarily a hostility towards African Americans, but for whom African Americans don't count for anything, for whom they are a nullity.

It would be those for whom African Americans are "them" and not a part of "us."

I think one reason that for some Black lives don't matter is that in the teaching of history all too often Black lives don't matter and people internalize this message.

I call upon all historians to take the stand that #BlackLivesMatter in the writing of history. To not be silent when other historians' practice of history shows that for them Black lives don't matter. The hashtag would be #BlackLivesMatterInHistory.

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