CBA Record January-February 2022
CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY MONTH
Asking the Right Question Whose story is most true, most accurate, most deserving of inclusion in public school curriculums? That depends on who you ask. So maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Instead of asking what is true, or what theory about America is most accurate, maybe the right question isn’t what’s true or accurate. Maybe the right question is: who gets to decide what’s true? Who gets the power to decide what our common American story is? If we’re all equal, then none of us gets to decide. But we all get to tell our own stories. And all stories get equal exposure in public school curriculums. Don’t teach theories—just tell the stories. The theories will come. And so, potentially, will the discomfort, guilt, anguish, and psychological distress. That’s when our national healing may begin. But not a moment sooner. For without guilt, there is no repentance. Without repen- tance, there is no forgiveness. And without forgiveness, there is no peace.
medicine, and weapons) and information (e.g., media, school curriculums, the stories that are told and heard in society). If equal doesn’t mean the right to equal power, then it means nothing at all. By this definition of equal, we need not concern ourselves with theories. We need only concern ourselves with stories. If we’re all equal, then the story of every discernable demographic group is equally deserving of being taught in public school curriculums. Students can be presented with varying stories about a given event and asked to think critically about them all. Is there really a need to introduce them to a theory? When people hear a story, they come up with their own theories. Let’s expose students to different stories about important events and let them come up with their own theories. Stories of the American Revolution Take, for example, the American Revo- lution. Some scholars theorize that the Founding Fathers’ real reason for breaking with England was to preserve slavery in the colonies. Some will agree with that theory, and some will disagree with it. But what no one can disagree about is that different groups have different stories about the Revolution. The Founders have their story about the Revolution and that’s what most of us were taught in school. But what about the stories of other people whose lives were impacted by the Revolution?Why don’t we teach their stories? What’s the Native American story about the Revolution? Most of them felt the Revolution was a conflict between two
foreign tribes over which tribe would get to keep stolen Native land. Thus, most Native American tribes were neutral, supporting neither the British nor the colonies, and wishing that both the British and the Americans would leave. That’s a story, not a theory. What’s the Black story about the Revolution? Most of us were not neutral. Most Blacks sided with the British because the British promised us freedom. In fact, many of the Founders including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Paul Revere lost several slaves who escaped to be with the British. That’s a story, not a theory. The French monarch gave the Found- ers money to finance the Revolution. What is the French peasants’ story about the American Revolution? French peas- ants were upset that the French monarch could find money to give to American colonists but couldn’t find the money to feed their own starving citizens. The French peasants revolted several years later and slaughtered their royalty. That’s a story, not a theory. What’s the British story about the Revolution? The British were stunned that the American colonists were upset about taxation without representation. From the British perspective, the British spent lots of money to help protect the colonists from the French and Native Americans, and the taxes the British imposed were fair and reasonable under the circumstances. To the British, the American colonists were spoiled brats throwing a temper tantrum. That’s a story, not a theory.
Pa t r i c k Da n kwa John, o f the Law Of f i c e o f Pa t r i ck Dankwa John, P.C., is the 2020-21 presi- dent of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers and a 2021 recipient of the
CBA’s Earl B. Dickerson Award.
CBA RECORD 29
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