If you ever make your way to San Antonio, Texas, you’ll find remnants of the Alamo preserved as a historical reminder to us all. People worldwide and students everywhere are encouraged to learn about and remember the heroic struggle and ultimate sacrifice for freedom that the many men made at the Alamo, against insurmountable odds.
As many history books have chronicled, the defenders of the Alamo held out for 13 days against Santa Anna’s army, as they believed the Alamo was the key to the defense of Texas. According to those history books, the defenders of the Alamo were ready to give their lives rather than surrender their position to General Santa Anna. Heroes of the Alamo, such as Colonel William Travis, Jim Bowie and Davey Crockett, are forever remembered for their bravery and sacrifice. While the facts surrounding the siege of the Alamo are often debated, there is no doubt that the battle at the Alamo has come to be a major part of Texas history and something we are encouraged to remember.
Choosing never to forget something, even if it is painful, is a healthy thing.
That is why we remember the Alamo. It symbolized something that, although painful to remember, reminds us that the memory of those who paid the ultimate price should always be remembered. We remember many events and incidents that are centered on tragic events and circumstances.
We remember soldiers who have died in military combat on Memorial Day; we remember the victims who suffered at the hands of terrorists on 9/11; we remember the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through a holiday; we remember the death of a celebrity; we remember Pearl Harbor; and lastly, we remember the tragedy of the Holocaust.
While there are so many more things that I could list, these events have become a staple of conversation and have been engrained into the minds of people in this country, to the point that it is acceptable to acknowledge and remember.
When it comes to the barbaric and horrific act of slavery, however, many people choose to turn a blind eye to the historical relevance of slavery and want everyone to forget about it and move on. When it comes to the economic, social and political disenfranchisement of Black people in this country, people want us to move beyond the conversation and reality of how many companies were built on the backs of slaves and proceeds from slavery helped make generations of families wealthy and generations of Black families disenfranchised.
How can a people who have suffered from the tremendous injustices and remnants of slavery and Jim Crow, be asked to forget about a past that continues to affect us collectively to this day?
I have often heard people say that we should just forget about slavery because it took place hundreds of years ago, and we can’t do anything to change what happened.
I have also heard many people say that Black people should move on from the conversation of slavery because it wasn’t them, but their forefathers who committed those acts, so they shouldn’t be blamed for it or held accountable for it.
Our history books teach a watered down version of what happened to Black people in America and it is time for our children to learn about the whole truth, particularly the real horrors of the slave trade involving our African ancestors. Conversations, movies and books about the Holocaust are never watered down. To tell a Jewish person to forget about the Holocaust would be a travesty and would never be tolerated.
The Texas Board of Education recently showed their hand by overwhelmingly voting to change and re-write the history books to refer to the slave trade as the “Atlantic triangular trade.” They also voted to omit the first Black president and 44th President of The United States, Barack Obama, from the history books at the same time. After much debate, the proposal was eventually amended. The “Atlantic triangular trade” language was finally changed to the “trans-Atlantic slave trade,” and the board member who didn’t want President Obama to even be mentioned in the history books, ultimately conceded to add him and refer to him only by his full name, Barack Hussein Obama.
Telling Black people to forget about slavery is indicative of the lack of respect that we have always received in this country. We have always been viewed and treated as second class citizens, starting with the Constitution of the United States.
In order to stay grounded and sober-minded, I will never forget slavery, just like I could never forget those who 1) lied on me, 2) made empty promises, 3) used me, 4) received assistance from me and didn’t return the favor or 5) committed acts in order to hurt or harm me. Forgiveness is not the same as forgetfulness.
Choosing not to forget doesn’t mean that you are bitter or angry, it just means that you are not naïve enough to act like some things never happened. If you are unable to move on or live a productive life, chances are you have an inability to forgive.
I’m not asking people to treat slavery like a holiday and use it to lay a guilt trip on people, but I am asking people to at least acknowledge it as a significant occurrence in our nation’s history. In addition, I am asking people to acknowledge that Black people paid an ultimate sacrifice by having their families separated, freedom taken, wives and daughters raped, economic growth stifled, family members lynched and viciously murdered, political strength curtailed, communities ravished, and education shortchanged.
So if you are looking for me to forget about slavery and remember everything else, you need to look somewhere else, because I won’t be doing it during my lifetime.