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  • Writer's pictureCalvin

Checkered Past

The United States school system is very selective in the way they teach history. When I was young, I was brought up to believe that the USA is a beautiful country to live in. That our system of democracy is a beacon of light upon this world. That we should be proud and grateful to live in such a great nation.

That is something that I deeply appreciate. And I do agree that children should be brought up with a relative sense of patriotism for the nation that they grow up in. After all, we citizens are the ones directly benefiting from the might that is the USA. It is definitely still a beacon of hope and a place where immigrants come to fulfill their deepest and largest dreams.

People still flock to the USA to learn and live and experience life in one of the most powerful (if not the most powerful) first world nation on this planet. And I am thankful to have grown up in relative peace and prosperity in this nation.

But, of course, with all its glory and might and idealism, the USA is not a perfect nation. No nation is. The more I grow up and mature, the more I realize that the USA has its flaws and imperfections and even ugliness. And sometimes, it’s okay to bring up these aspects of our nation too. After all, it’s all about balance.

I recently just watched 12 Years A Slave, and the movie paints a horrifying portrayal of slavery in the South back in the 1800s. Yes, some slaveowners were more humane than others. But there were some owners that were just brutal towards the slaves. Mentally and physically abusing them. Emotionally manipulating them. Treating them as an utmost inferior race. And being okay with it.

It shows you how drastic perspectives can be in the span of merely a century or so. And it shows you that yes, there are Americans out there that do feel a sense of superiority over others simply because of the nature of their race. And I applaud the movie for not beating around the bush and directly portraying how flawed the USA was during that time.

Slavery definitely leads a bruised mark on the legacy of the USA. It is a sign that every country still has a lot of progress to work on. That as far as we’ve come now that we are in the 21st century, there is still more improvements that need to happen. Slowly but surely.

I obviously learned about slavery in the school textbooks when I was young. But reading about it was one thing. Watching a horrific movie on it was another thing. There’s just something about vividly seeing something on screen that leaves you deeply ingrained and impacted emotionally. I obviously realized that slavery was bad. But, in the past, the media and movies of old would sometimes even romanticize that period of time.

Well, watching 12 Years A Slave has really opened my eyes about the abject horrors of being human. The ability for one race to simply enslave another race is not something to be simply swept under the rug. It should be discussed and discussed openly. It might be a sensitive and tough topic to talk about, but sometimes people do need to open a discussion on it.

I realize that we have made light years of progress since those ages. And that we have progressed so far as a society today. And ideally, it would be great if racism were completely wiped off the mat. But honestly, I think that is simply an ideal. And ideals are not realistic.

The first thing we see about each other is the color of our skin. It is inherently built into our thought process. It may not be possible ever to completely “get rid of” racism. Maybe it would be better instead to acknowledge our differences and find ways to treat each other with compassion and empathy. To see what it’s like in the other’s shoes.

Yes, we will never 100% know what it’s like to be another person. But perception can kind of help in that department. And it’s important to own up to our past. And find ways to continue bettering ourselves in a more cultured landscape.

There have been many horrors certainly imprinted in American history. With the ravaging of Native American tribes upon arrival from Europe. The institution of slavery. The marginalization of minorities. The more I think about it, the more imperfection I see from the country that I live in.

But the fact that I can talk about these imperfections openly and without consequence should be seen as a gift. Not every citizen of a nation can openly speak about their country and their politics. So, with all its flaws and drawbacks, the USA is still a nation that I enjoy living in. It’s just that we should be cognizant of our nation’s strengths and flaws.

Our checkered past should be acknowledged and open to discussion when we are ready for it.

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