I believe the motive of many citizens seeking to remove symbols of white supremacy from public spaces is not to “wipe away lessons of history” as South Dakota’s governor proclaimed recently, but rather to tell our nation’s history in a way that is more truthful.
In the movie “Frozen 2,” Elsa and Anna had grown up with a story of their grandfather that acclaimed his peaceful benevolence in building a dam for a neighboring tribe. The truth was he not only destroyed the people’s livelihood but also launched a war. Elsa finally learns the story of what really happened and speaks the truth for the life and well being of all.
Many historical museums in America have been working to tell the story of America in a more accurate way. For example, the first display in the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia highlights Native Americans’ contribution to the success of the Revolution. The Museum of Alabama’s “Voices of Alabama” exhibit begins with the story of how the seizure of tribal land opened the way for plantations and slavery that created enormous wealth for whites.
The song from “Hamilton” puts it this way: “Who lives, who dies, who tells the story.”
I love the dream of America but it is a dream that has not yet been. To get there, we must tell the unvarnished story that our nation was built on genocide against indigenous people and enslaving blacks for the benefit of whites. Only then, can we move forward to become a nation with liberty and justice for all.