Friday, April 12, 2024

Column: It's our responsibility to seek out forgotten history

January 16, 2020

The execution of Fred Hampton should be considered one of the most infamous and important moments in the history of our nation. 

A talented young, black leader, Hampton had brokered peace deals between Chicago gangs and was seen as a great uniter of people. He was making his way up in the Black Panther Party before Chicago police broke into the Black Panther headquarters Dec. 4, 1969 and killed Hampton and another Panther, Mark Clark, according to The Nation

The ensuing attempted cover-up is even more shocking. The police claimed they called for three ceasefires, but a grand jury found that the Panthers fired a maximum of one shot, a shotgun blast at the ceiling fired by Clark after he had been shot in the heart. The same jury found police fired between 83 and 90 shots, according to The Nation.

So why did I find out about all of this on Twitter?

I used to have a history teacher who loved to use that Winston Churchill-attributed quote: “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”

I think that’s the attitude for a lot of history teachers about why they teach, so in a time of high racial tensions, shouldn’t more time be devoted to black history?

One period of history that should be examined is the crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980s and 90s. The government portrayed crack as some sort of super drug that was making its users, who were mostly black, dangerous. 

“Crack was not nearly as instantly addictive or drive people as crazy as a lot of the politicians and the journalists would say,” said Clifford Broman, a Michigan State sociology professor who has studied race and addiction. 

The crack epidemic damaged African American communities across the nation. The drug carried a 100-to-1 sentencing mandate compared to pure cocaine powder, which was more commonly used by white people. 

With this mandate, many black children grew up with parents behind bars and intergenerational wealth in black households was set back even further.

Given the unfair policies put in place by mostly white politicians, it would make sense for steps to be taken to undo the harm. However, the general public’s ignorance to systemic racism that has been prevalent since the creation of this nation allows for harmful policy like this to be forgotten.

“When people don’t really agree on one course of action, it can be really hard to change,” Broman said. “And we don’t really have great agreement on whether there’s systemic racism and whether we need to do anything about it.”

As more and more people acknowledge the existence of systemic racism, the conversation should shift to how to fix it. That’s the conversation we should have on a larger scale now.

I learned about the Federalist Papers at least four or five different times from elementary school to when I graduated. As historically important as those papers are, they have little bearing on what happens today.

Black history is very relevant now as we as a nation sort out a way to level the playing field. 

The past needs to be considered, and the American people need to have all the information.

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