To The REVIEW:
In the late 1960s, my dad didn’t like Martin Luther King. The man, he used to say, was a “social agitator.” What’s more, he’d say, some of King’s friends were known communists. In Wisconsin, where I grew up, U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who claimed he knew where every communist in America was hiding, held all kinds of political influence.
My dad, a loving and strong Christian man, had little knowledge of African-American history. In Oostburg High School during the years before World War II, I’m quite sure no one talked much about Bleeding Kansas or the Underground Railroad. I’m sure he knew nothing of the hundreds, even thousands of lynchings during Jim Crow. Back then, in most cities, schools were still segregated. My grandpa was an elder in our church and a passionate Christian, but he cheered for the Philadelphia Phillies because they were the last team to integrate.
But then, how many of us know that at the turn of the century, the local KKK paraded through the streets of Peterson, Iowa — I’ve got a picture — and maintained a proud presence right here in the county?
Some history isn’t taught, in part, because we’d rather not hear it.
That’s good, says our own state Rep. Skyler Wheeler. He wants to prohibit an African-American history project titled 1619 because it’s “a complete assault on conservatives, conservatism and Republicans.” The curriculum, created in part by an Iowan named Nikole Hannah-Jones, he says will “deny or obfuscate the fundamental principles upon which the United States was founded.”
His Republican-sponsored bill, House File 222, would ban schools as well as other institutions governed by the Board of Regents from teaching anything — anything! — from the 1619 project. Should they dare, their funding will be slashed.
“Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” (1970) became a bestseller, but infuriated loads of Euro-American readers because it dared attempt to relate our history as a Native people might. You may want to think of what happened at Wounded Knee as a “battle”; after all, the government still does. But every Lakota person I know calls it a “massacre,” and there’s a difference.
Skyler Wheeler wants to make America great in the way it was in the days of my parents and grandparents. Skyler Wheeler believes he needs to tell history teachers around the state — elementary, middle school, high school, college and university — how they must teach history.
I think he’s wrong.