EQUAL JUSTICE INITIATIVE
"Until the Story of the hunt is told by the Lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter."
In the wake of The National Memorial for Peace and Justice’s arrival in Montgomery, Alabama, discussions on the importance to truly acknowledge all events that have taken place in history have once again increased. In 2018 an overwhelming majority of the general population within the United States still lacks a fundamental knowledge of this country’s history.
Over the years a number of states, like Texas, via publisher McGraw-Hill, have come under fire for their history textbook revisions that glorify the tale of the hunter. In these educational environments students are taught that human beings that were kidnapped, raped, killed, and forced to live a life of servitude were merely “workers” from Africa; not to mention our celebration of Native Americans acts to “willingly” move to centralized locations in an attempt to allow illegal immigrants the opportunity to own land.
These tales of history have shaped us to identify historical figures like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as true “American” heroes in the same breath that we deem social activists as savage terrorists. Essentially, school history classes are taught from a Eurocentric point of view, which leaves the story, in its entirety, as voiceless as strange fruit hanging from poplar trees.
The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), however, seeks to shed light on an issue that continues to plague the United States in hopes to provide an opportunity for reconciliation and to move towards a brighter future.
Throughout this country’s existence, black children, women, and men have been lynched. Although some of these heinous acts of terrorism have been caught by photographers, stories of mutilated black bodies lifted above seas of grin covered white faces remain untold. Perhaps the most disturbing point that can be taken away from viewing these photos is that white children, women, and men showed up to these family events as a form of entertainment.
What happens when we refuse to discuss such atrocities? The family, friends, and community of the victim are left to battle post-traumatic stress disorders as their lives lose value in the hearts of society. Without opportunities to properly express the anguish felt because of these dark times in the past, we find ourselves at war with a barbaric mentality in the present.
Although strange fruit, like Lennon Lacy, still swings in places like North Carolina, the horrific act has mostly taken a different form. 14 year old boys, like Emmett Till are no longer pulled from their homes by grown men and killed due to false accusations. Instead, they are murdered in cold blood by trigger-happy policemen while playing in the park, like 12 year old Tamir Rice.
The fact that young Rice’s life was cut short by a public servant isn’t the only issue; another issue lies within the demonization of the victims before the criminals are found free of any guilt by law.
“Maybe Sandra Bland should have just complied”, “I know carrying a concealed weapon is legal, but maybe Philando Castile shouldn’t have had it with him”, “Stephon Clark should have told them that it was a phone”. Absurd remarks such as those are only made when a person doesn’t see value in another’s life. So why aren’t black lives valued? Why don’t black lives seem to matter?
The answer to the questions lie within us, as a country, not fully realizing the brutality that black people have faced, still face, within the United States. We teach slavery as if it were a small blemish that took place millennia ago. We refrain from any discussions in regards to the terrorism that black people have faced at the hands of lynch mobs.
Essentially, the suffering that black people have had to endure is never discussed. Instead, this country continues to place bandages over a detrimental wound, praying that the pain and consequent symptoms would one day vanish.
To care for any wound we must first acknowledge it. Then we take steps to recognize how we received it and make an effort to never experience a similar wound again. Take the country of Germany and the Jewish people for example. When was the last time the country made headlines because a Jewish individual’s life was prematurely stolen due to an undervalued view on his or her existence?
Germany makes sure to discuss one of the darkest points in their history in order to be sure that nothing on that level happens again between them and a Jewish population. It’s about time we do the same.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum are great ways to bring a brighter future to fruition, but we can’t stop there. We must get to a point when black children don’t have to walk past statues of racist presidential idols and insensitive park names just to arrive at schools named after confederate soldiers as confederate flags hang from trucks parked in lots.
As Maya Angelou once said, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” There’s still a lot of work ahead of us; however, we can make a positive change for tomorrow as long as we acknowledge history today through the revelation of the complete story.