white like me {chapter 2}

An alternative title to this post: WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA??

I’ve been asked this question several times over the past few years. I do not, in fact, hate America. I just don’t worship her, that’s all. And I’m not afraid to dig around and get to the root of the truth about her past & how it affects her present-day (and, ultimately, her future).

(And I pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ alone, but that’s a post–or an e-book–for another day.)

Again, my friend Jolie is leading this online book club on Tim Wise’s book, White Like Me, and shared her thoughts on Chapter 2 here. (My thoughts from Chapter 1 can be found here.)

Wise explains at the beginning of the chapter that, because whites are the dominant group in the U.S., we have the luxury of “remaining behind a veil of ignorance for years” (so so true, at least in my experience) while people of color notice they’re treated differently from a very early age. (27)

Last year, I wrote a few posts drawing on personal accounts of black friends, hoping to give us white folks the tiniest peek into what it’s like not to have white skin. (you can read them here, here, & here)

Wise talks about this a lot lot more in the chapters to come, but this particular chapter addresses something pretty critical we need to get out of the way first: the lies/half-truths we’ve been taught (and teach) about the history of our country.

Wise shares a bit about a book he read as a young child: Meet Andrew Jackson, “an eighty-seven page tribute to the nation’s seventh president, intended to make children proud of the nation in which they live.” (30)

When Jackson headed West as a young man, the book says, he encountered Indians who “did not want white people in their hunting grounds” and “often killed white travelers.”

“This part was true, of course,” Wise admits, “if a bit incomplete: people whose land has been invaded and is in the process of being stolen often become agitated and sometimes even kill those who are trying to destroy them. Imagine.” (30)

The book went on to say that, even though some people in the North didn’t think it was right to own slaves, Andrew Jackson did, and he called them his “family.” One can only wonder if the feeling was indeed mutual. At the end of the book is a story of Jackson’s slaves crying and singing a sad old song as he lay dying.

There is no scholarly record of this happening.

Was it made up? Wise says yes. Just like the fairy tale about George Washington cutting down the cherry tree and then telling his dad, because he couldn’t tell a lie.

“No fabrication is too extreme in the service of national self-love,” Wise says. “Anything that makes us feel proud can be said, facts notwithstanding. Anything that reminds us of the not-so-noble pursuits of our forefathers or national heroes, on the other hand, gets dumped down the memory hole, and if you bring those kinds of things up, you’ll be accused of hating America.” (31)

Speak up and say you don’t think we should have a public holiday dedicated to Christopher Columbus, who enslaved native people groups and sold young girls into sex slavery, and people will say, Why do you hate America? Or, you can’t prove that! Or, once you do prove it, how is it MY fault Columbus did that?

Speak up and say you believe the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate (no matter how much people want to cry “heritage!”), and you’ll get angry people telling you about their deep-deep-rooted pride in this country, the South in particular.

Speak up and say that the NFL’s Washington Redskins should change their name/mascot, because it is very hurtful and offensive to Native Americans, and you’ll hear, “Stop trying to be so freaking politically correct! Football is America’s sport! Leave us the hell alone!”

Or speak up and say racism is still alive and well in America, and people will say, “Slavery was a long time ago!” and “We have a black President for crying out loud!” and “Get over it already!”

The country of Cambodia (where I’ve lived with my family the past 7 months) is finally (FINALLY) starting (STARTING) to be honest about its horrific past (a very recent past) in schools. I urge Americans to do the same.

I ask you to read this following quote slowly, carefully, even prayerfully, and with a very open mind. The truth just might rattle you. I know it did me.

“The way in which we place rogues like Andrew Jackson on a pedestal, while telling people of color to ‘get over it’ (meaning the past) whenever slavery or Indian genocide is brought up, has always struck me as the most precious of ironies. We want folks of color to move past the past, even as we very much seek to dwell in that place a while. We dwell there every July 4, every Columbus Day, every time a child is given a book like Meet Andrew Jackson to read. We love the past so long as it venerates us. We want to be stuck there, and many would even like to return. Some say as much, as with the Tea Party folks who not only announce that ‘they want their country back’ but even dress up in tricorn hats, Revolutionary War costumes, and powdered wigs for their rallies. It is only when those who were the targets for destruction challenge the dominant narrative that the past becomes conveniently irrelevant, a trifle not worth dwelling upon.” (31)

Without an honest look at our not-so-God-honoring past, there is no hope for racial reconciliation and justice now, nor in the future.

2 thoughts on “white like me {chapter 2}

  1. Ruth C

    Thank you for speaking up about this. I’m just starting to teach American history this year to my kids and although I never was a history fan, I know there are some things I don’t want to teach them, at least not in the way I was taught. I already reserved the book you linked to (about history lies we were taught) and will be carefully teaching my children. I have felt weird “pledging allegiance” to the flag & teaching my kids that.. And American “pride”… Not so much. I want to boast in Jesus & I know we are all screwed up and rely on His grace. I don’t hate America. I am so grateful we live here & have freedom (mostly), but I do take issue with a lot of our history and don’t know quite what to do about it all. Anyway, thanks again. I hear ya.

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