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Guest Column

Knowing the whole truth, how do we celebrate July 4?

Posted

We've heard about fake news lately, but what about what's left out of our politically correct history books? As I've been re-learning our country's history over the last few years, I've discovered some hidden truths that are not taught in our books or classrooms. It's time to shed some light.

Recently, my eldest daughter graduated with her master of divinity from Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University. Yes, I'm very proud, thank you. So, my daughters and I traveled from New York to Virginia to move her to her next adventure. Once down there, we went to Jamestown Fort, "America's Birthplace in 1607." I had been to that historical area before as a kid and loved it, but that did not prepare me for what I would soon experience.

This time as I visited Jamestown and the plantations, I was in tears. I now know a fuller truth of that history so it was hard to hear the usual story told in our history books from a white man's perspective. Now, don't stop reading. I know this might seem controversial to some, but stick with me, please.

This time, I knew that when the 104 English settlers arrived onto a "new" land, they dismissed the fact that it was already home to thousands of natives here. And that Capt. John Smith, the handsome cartoon character with Pocahontas, was actually part of the beginning of the white male patriarchy in our country. Yes, these allegedly courageous Englishmen who traveled the seas and braved the elements of this new land actually claimed someone else's land (and sometimes their wives) as their own.

But if that weren't enough, then they literally bought or stole people from another continent (Africa) and brought them over and enslaved them to do their own work and make themselves profitable. So the history film's narrator in the visitor's center might have delicately and politely said, "these three cultures came together," but there was not much politeness or delicacy about it. It was actually horrifying this time as a conscious adult to walk the land where so many people were injured, killed or enslaved for power and profit of the white man. And as a white person of English descent, this was particularly hard history to relive and feel the guilt of what my ancestors had done. But it was also healing and transformative for me, and my family.

Now I know this might feel awkward, but it's time to own our whole American history, not just the marketed glamour of the red, white and blue cups and plastic ware. We need to also acknowledge that our country was founded on white men dominating people of color. Sadly, looking at today's statistics in business or government, that hasn't changed enough.

I believe it's now necessary to learn from the untold stories in history in order to heal our divides and better understand how to truly transform us into a society worthy of this land.

So as we're celebrating the Fourth of July this year, we may want to look at the full history of our country and figure out how to do our personal part in the continuing liberation of the peoples we white folk have oppressed for hundreds of years. It's time to own and acknowledge the whole truth.

Linda Newell is termed out as the state senator of Senate District 26 and is now educating people on how to understand and influence their government. She may be reached at Senlindanewell@gmail.com, www.lindanewell.org, www.senlindanewell.com, @sennewell on Twitter, Senator Linda Newell or @TheLastBill on Facebook.

Linda Newell

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