As a parent, it is important to teach my children their history. Often the opportunities to teach them about their culture happen spontaneously through conversations. My eldest daughter and I have great history lessons during our car rides. Here is one of my favorite conversations.
R: Mom, let’s talk about slavery in America. Why did the Africans sell our people to the Europeans in slavery again?
Me: Well, Africa has had many full civilizations for over 8000 years. American (Africa) chattel slavery only started in the 15th century. So for 300 years, we were enslaved in America, and for over 7600 years we had our own civilizations and countries.
R: Were there slaves then?
Me: Yes. Every country, every culture, every ethnicity in the world had a form of slavery. But American slavery was different because it was the first time that they said that the enslaved people, weren’t people, they were just property.
R: Property? What does that mean?
Me: Well, in England, they enslaved the Irish and Scottish people for centuries. The English people thought Irish and Scottish people were not as smart, as civilized, or as worthy as English people. The Roman Empire had enslaved Anglos, Saxons, Germans, French, and all the other “tribes” of Europe, before they became countries. The Roman Empire elite believed that the people they enslaved were not as smart, as civilized, or as worthy as the Roman Empire. Including Jesus. Egyptians, the Africans, enslaved people too. The Egyptians didn’t believe the people they enslaved were as smart as them either. Same for Japan, China, India, everywhere!
Slavery, pre-American chattel slavery, meant people were lower class, but they were people.
American Cattle slavery defined slaves as property; not people.
But, in America, they created “whiteness.” All of sudden, once the people crossed the ocean from Europe, they weren’t peasants or lower class, they became “White.” And many of the immigrants left their countries in Europe because of how badly they were treated in their countries. So they really, really liked being “white.” Now, they weren’t “stupid/ugly/lazy” like they had been labeled in Europe, they were special. They were White.
And then, America made “Black.” In America, and they told that the lie that Black people weren’t people. They told us we were ugly, stupid, our brains were smaller, and that they “saved” us from Africa, because it is full of other “ugly/stupid/lay” Africans. So enslaved Black folks didn’t hear about the truth of their history. 8000 years of recorded, documented civilization was erased!
And then Black Americans started wanting to be like White Americans. And poor Europeans wanted to come to America so they could be White too. In Europe, they still didn’t have “whiteness.” You were assigned class by your birth. So if your family was poor, you would be poor. But America said, “if you have White Skin, you are special.” And also, “if you have Black skin, you are not special.”
R: But why didn’t Black people talk about their culture and the good parts? And why did poor White people forget how bad they were treated in Europe?
Me: People don’t like to talk about painful things. But it is important to know the truth. Black people didn’t start in slavery. White people didn’t start in America. America is less than 250 years old. African history is at least 8000 years old. We can talk about black people during our 250 years in America, but always remember, how much longer, deeper, and complex our story is. Slavery, blackness being bad, racism, is a drop in the bucket, compared to the long list of things black people have done and experienced on earth.
R: What is your favorite Black history story?
Me: The University of Timbuktu in Mali. I can’t wait to tell you all about it! But look how cool America is and it has only been here 230 years? Can you imagine how cool America will be in 1000 years?
Ryann: Maybe as cool as Egypt?
Me: mmm, Egypt didn’t have football or tacos. So, yeah, we will probably be waaayyy better.
#BlackHistory #Wehavetoteachourchildrenthetruth #ourstorydidnotbegininslavery #Mayaisobsorbingit #Iamsure