The United States of America has developed into arguably one of the most well established and successful countries in the world. With a GDP worth over $17.4 trillion, the United States ranked only second to the European Union in the year of 2014 (Trade Economy). But with the blinding opportunity and privilege given to a vast majority of people in this country, it’s become almost irrelevant for some of us to take a second to appreciate what has contributed to this country being built from the ground up. The 21st century has grown to become unappreciative and insensitive to the fact that this country was heavily founded on the enslavement of the African people. Edward E. Baptist, history professor at the University of Cornell, shares his first hand experiences of ignorance and arrogance during his time at UPenn and Cornell in his article, “Teaching Slavery to Reluctant Readers”. During his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, the idea that “African Americans were intellectually inferior” (Baptist), and personal beliefs about how slaves could have possibly enjoyed physical labor without pay have all been forms of justifying America’s horrible past. Justifications such as these, are exclusively forms of “white defenses to slavery” (Baptist).
Baptist also sheds spotlight on the lack of time spent by educational institutions on teaching slavery to students by stating, “college students today arrive knowing little about the way America’s history of slavery has shaped their lives. Avoidance of the topic is deeply ingrained” (Baptist). As a professor of an ivy league school, Edward Baptist has had a first hand look at how even students of the highest academic abilities from the best high schools across the country come from curriculums that have seemed to “shrug” off, and neglect the topic about teaching slavery to students. And it’s not just slavery that goes unnoticed, African American students such as those who attend the University of Missouri face the post results of slavery in the south everyday. Racism indeed, still exists and students such as Corie Wilkins and Tiana Glass have had plenty of face to face experiences with it while attending a predominately white University in Colombia, MO.
So I ask, how can Americans so proudly enjoy the fruits of labor of slavery yet show little appreciation towards black people, black culture, and black lives? Is there any correlation between “white defenses to slavery” and the lack of time spent in educational institutions educating students about slavery? Do you think it’s important to learn about slavery in the United States? Do you think slavery is responsible for any of the racial tensions we’re seeing today within specific ethnical groups, and if so, how can we reduce the tension it has created?
Privileged: having special rights, advantages, or immunities
Socioeconomic: relating to or concerned with the interaction of social and economic factors
Fruits of Labor: the results of one’s work