Letter: Understanding history can help solve worldly issues

To the editor:

We as citizens of the greatest bastion of guaranteed freedom always endeavor to break everything down into little boxes.

However, much of our lives in this real world are far more complex than a single word or acronym.

I often find much of the history we were taught in school not as clean and pure as we might think.

Much of our history as a nation reflects the Western European thinking of the day: natives living on the land were treated less than the average peasant, and not worthy of any regard.

Many of the issues we have as a country, and in the world, can be traced back to what we tell ourselves is true and what we teach as history.

It has not been that many years since we were taught that the races were genetically different in many attributes; ranging from dexterity, physical strength, and intelligence, to leadership ability. The list could go on and on.

We are learning by experience that this concept is wrong. We have a generation growing now that sees the error in the previous thinking, but we as a society have a problem accepting this thinking after a lifetime believing something else.

In a documentary on the Smithsonian channel called “Reclaiming History: Our Native Daughters," the woman that narrated it did an excellent job.

Speaking of the concept of slavery on sugar plantations in the Caribbean and elsewhere, she quoted a few lines from a poem written in the mid 1800s called “Pity the Poor African,” by William Cowper. A few lines from that poem, speak to us today:

“I pity them greatly, but I must be mum,

For how could we do without sugar and rum?

Especially sugar, so needful we see;

What, give up our desserts, our coffee and tea?”

A point in this documentary by the narrator was that we no longer except slavery as moral, but we still exploit the poor and defenseless segments of our society and poorer countries around the world.

We turn a blind eye when we shop for low-cost fresh vegetables and produce even though some of our food is handpicked by migrants who are forced to work to pay the cartels for smuggling them into the country.

Our name-brand designer clothes and shoes? They are produced in sweatshops in the poorest countries where they work 12 or more hours to meet a quota and are paid starvation wages.

At one level or another, all society is responsible for systemic racism and all prejudices.

As children, we are born with a clean slate. We earn our opinions of people and events whether right or wrong by our experience, environment and with whom we choose to associate.

To make change takes a conscious effort and desire. To see what we perceive as wrong or improper and not speak out is to condone and passively approve.

Let’s open society to true freedom and equality. Let’s do this together.

William Gerhard, Scipio