To those who rail against anyone who would destroy our history, I say, "You are absolutely right." No history should ever be destroyed. Instead its presentation should be amended to correct for distortion—to let it yell loud, clear, and truthfully the centuries of lies that we have been taught. This is but a tiny step to rectify the record.
The corrections of my distorted record (what I knew to be true history) began seriously about two decades ago when I worked for an organization that was involved in indigenous rights and issues. I'm ashamed to say that until I began working there, I hadn't thought much about Native history. I'd passively accepted what I was taught in my all-white school—all of which was exploded when I began to learn about the systematic genocide and suppression of Native peoples all over the globe.
With the current ongoing videoed deaths of so many Black men, my justice trigger has been pulled into high gear. I've been reading books, contemplating, and as they say in 12-step programs, doing a fearless moral "inventory." And much of what I've found inside me makes me sick to my stomach.
On a recent news report, Aisha Tyler was asked to comment, as the first Black actor in an important role in the sitcom Friends, about the producer's statement that "if [she] knew then what [she] knows now," she'd have done something about the lack of diversity on the popular show. Looking exhausted and disgusted, Tyler remarked that the producer had probably known then everything she knows now, but it was the great apathy that allowed her complacent White casting.
This statement rocked me because at a gut level, I believe it is true.
I grew up in a family that anybody could have seen was worthy of being institutionalized for insanity. I learned through years of work on myself that my reactions to it—"This is nuts!"—were valid, but until hearing Tyler, I could never understand how, no matter how loud I screamed and cried, nobody seemed to hear me.
And now I've come to see that for me to be as passive as I've been for most of my life about racism, is just as apathetic as any sane adults who may have witnessed my family's pathology. How could they not hear me? Answer: They did. It was just too damned inconvenient to do anything about what they heard, so they tuned it out, ignored it, convinced themselves it was not important.
I think becoming a fiction writer was, in a sense, correcting my personal record. My stories are fiction, but the feelings and the discoveries I make by writing them are a way to make true what was denied.
And so it seems to me that as a culture that craves justice and peace, the only way to achieve that is to tell the truth about what we have been, expose all the lies we have spun as truth, and rectify the record.
Monuments that portray traitors and terrorists as heroes should be put in museums with a truthful history of who they were, what they did—both good and horrific, and how they were purveyed to the public for how many years and for what purpose.
Movies that allowed Black actors to work only if they presented themselves as cartoons that were acceptable to White people should be similarly presented. Add historical accuracy to the presentation up front.
And while we're at it, how about putting English subtitles on the Native dialogue of all the First Nations people in Western movies? For years when Native speakers have watched John Wayne movies, they've howled at what the extras say. I'd love to be in on the joke and hear what these truthtellers thought of the ridiculous portrayal of "savages" vs. noble White men.
No history destroyed. On the contrary—it is exposed in the full light of truth. This is a beginning.