As we watch the rebellions against 30 years of brutal oppression in Egypt unfold, many are asking when will the Black youth of today rise up and fight for change the way the youth in Egypt are fighting? While on the surface such questions are important, they suggest that the youth are not willing to stand up and “fight the power.” They suggest that we haven’t been in the streets risking it all for social change.
Before we address any of this, let’s look at history, since it is Black History Month. If you were to pick up any high school text book, from New York to California, you’re likely to find fleeting information about the institution of slavery. In many instances the brutality and outright horrors have been sanitized. Words have been changed, harsh facts have been softened or omitted and a somewhat happy and hopeful face has been attached to the text. We see that happening now in places like Arizona and Texas where ethnic studies has been removed and there’s been a push to remove slavery and replace it with the words “Atlantic Triangular Trade.” Recently the Tea Party lawmakers in Tennessee have been pushing to downplay and outright remove references of our founding fathers being slave owners.
To have others tell it, slavery was not that bad,” and thus there was no reason for us to be out in the streets. In most text books, even on the college level, there is very little discussion about the rebellions and uprisings that routinely took place during the years we were held captive…Sure, here and there we’ll hear bits and pieces about Nat Turner‘s revolt in 1831. Occasionally there will be a mention of Denmark Vessey‘s uprising in 1822. But both those stories often lack pertinent details. We don’t hear about their strategies or the number of people who were ready to ride with them. We don’t hear about the smack downs they delivered. Even more telling is the lack of information about the absolute fear these two men put in the hearts and minds of white slave owners. All we know is that these uprisings were put down with Turner and Vessey being hung. End of story.
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