“The average American is woefully undereducated about the history of race in the United States” – On this point, Marianne Williamson was exactly right

marianne-williamsonI do not believe—I do not believe that the average American is a racist. But the average American is woefully undereducated about the history of race in the United States.
— Marianne Williamson, at the Democratic Candidates’ Debate, June 27, 2019
(click here for full transcript)


This was a moment that jumped out at me.  It was the second night of the Democratic Candidates’ debates.  Marianne Williamson is in the lower tier of candidates.  The discussion was about the police shooting in South Bend, Indiana; a question given to Mayor Pete Buttigieg.  As others responded, Marianne Williamson said these words:

I do not believe—I do not believe that the average American is a racist. But the average American is woefully undereducated about the history of race in the United States.

This is true. First, it is true that the average American is woefully undereducated on many subjects and issues.  And it is especially true about the subject of the  history of race.

For over a dozen years, I have read books dealing with social justice issues. One book a month – for the Urban Engagement Book Clubin Dallas.  I read the book; I prepare a multi-page comprehensive synopsis handout on the book; and then I present my synopsis at a lunch meeting. Many of the books I have presented have taught me much about the history of race in this country.

Though I had some knowledge of this history, and though I have studied, pretty diligently the speeches of the Civil Rights movement, I have come to see that I knew way too little.  I had so much to learn. I still have so very much to learn.

Most recently, I presented a synopsis of Myths America Lives By: White Supremacy and the Stories That Give Us Meaning by historian Richard T. Hughes. (Read my blog post, with my lessons and takeaways, here).the-new-jim-crow-m-alexander-pic

But the list of books is pretty long.  I have presented synopses of books by Ta-Nehisi Coates; Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow); W. E. B. DuBois; Chris Tomlinson; Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi, and many, many more.

Here is some of what I have come to know:

#1 – Black people were intentionally shut out of opportunities of every kind; from education, to loans, to neighborhoods, to…well everything.

#2 – Every step forward, every bit of progress, was done over the objections – the ugly, violent, even deadly objections – of the white people in power.  And it was always white people in power.

#3 – And, though things are better, they are not better enough.

For those who believe that there were good slave owners; please read some history. Maybe start with Charles Dew, The Making of a Racist.

For those who believe that the Civil War was not about slavery, please read the Cornerstone Speech by Alexander Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederate States of America.

If you are from Texas, read the Texas Ordinance of Secession.  (Or, if you live in a different state that was part of the Confederacy, pick the one for your state).  The Texas statement is based entirely on white supremacy, and the inferiority of the “African race” whose rightful place was that of slave. (Read the full statement here). Remember, this is the official document, signed by teh leaders of Texas, seceding from the Union and joining the Confederate States.

Here are the key paragraphs from the Texas Ordinance of Secession, February 2, 1861:

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations.

And for those who think it all just went away after the Civil War, well you have some reading and studying to tackle.  From red-lining, to police brutality (for example, just read about the police activities against the Freedom Riders), the history is painful to read.  But it is history that we should read.

This is not a column about Marianne Williamson and her candidacy for President.  But, I will agree with this – her statement about how Americans are woefully undereducated about the history of race in this country is absolutely correct.

And there is a remedy.  Start reading. Read, and ponder, and learn.  This is a path available to all.


StampedBeginningHere are a few more of my blog posts on books I’ve presented on issues of race:


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