The recent outrage over both-siderism should apply to Black people too
Since the summer, White people, mostly conservatives, have been rampaging against Critical Race Theory. They made the argument that America’s children should not learn about the ills of slavery, Jim Crow, or systemic racism. Many White people insisted a critical look at these structures would make White children feel uncomfortable. It’s funny how these same critics never seemed concerned with how Whites-only history makes Black children feel.
But, when audio from a Southlake school district meeting in Texas revealed that the new laws require teachers to provide “both-sides” to controversial issues without showing a preference for one or the other, liberal White people just about lost it.
‘Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979,”’Peddy could be heard saying on tape, according to NBC News. ‘And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.’NPR
You could hear the stress and anguish in the teachers’ voices as they responded to the news — that they would have to provide books or resources that provide “an opposing” view to the Holocaust. Teachers couldn’t imagine two sides to the Holocaust because, of course, the tragedy is inexcusable and undeniable.
But, I can’t help but see the irony in White people rejecting both-siderism when it comes to the Holocaust, but not slavery. But, seriously, where was this outrage all summer long when Black scholars were defending attacks on “critical race theory?”
White teachers should have risen up then, and to be fair, some did. Still, the outrage has never been as concise as when it provided a non-Black example of both-siderism. It’s only now that they seem united in their disapproval. That’s because even amongst sensible, left-leaning White folks, there is an undercurrent of racism that makes other marginalized groups more important than Black people. Black perspectives don’t seem to matter as long as White people don’t feel uncomfortable.
Millions of Jewish people lost their lives because of anti-semitism, and White people enslaved millions of Black people, killing and torturing many. So, the bottom line is — why is it so easy for White people to understand there are no two sides to the Holocaust without also equally conceding there are no two sides to slavery?
Simply put, marginalized groups are not treated equally, and more often than not, Black people find themselves at the bottom of the totem pole. Too often, school curriculum relies almost solely on White people’s accomplishments while hiding anything that exposes their slave-owning, humanity disregarding, bigoted behaviors.
For instance, elementary school teachers will often have children draw or color pictures of Christopher Columbus, even though he was a known rapist and murderer. It’s as if Black and Indigenous lives don’t matter to White people because when it comes to fighting over what children should learn in history class, preference is always given to the colonizer’s side of things.
“Columbus kidnapped and enslaved more than a thousand people in Hispaniola.” Tell me, White folks, are there two sides to what he did, or can we only show disdain for Nazis’ treatment of Jews? It’s frustrating to see only certain types of European people condemned for bigotry while others are praised and called heroes. But, seriously, what is the other side to this other than racism, greed, and corruption? And also, history is filled with stories of White people who actually fought against bigotry, so it seems ridiculous that we keep celebrating the ones who choose cruelty. They know what they’re doing.
Two Americans, Issac Franklin and John Armfield, were two of the most wealthy slave owners in American history. They bought and sold more African slaves than any other White men in American history. Essentially, “they created a modern machinery to support the business of human trafficking.”
Both Franklin and Armfield bragged about abusing and raping African slaves. So tell me White folks, should we read about their side of the story and acknowledge the pleasure they experienced from owning and abusing people? Or can we just be adults about it and safely say that there were no two sides to human trafficking?
We can’t really complain that there are no two sides to the Holocaust without acknowledging the hypocrisy of American history classes, which has long shown the “other side of slavery.” We got here to a place where Jewish people’s experiences are undermined in Texas classrooms because White people couldn’t care less when it was happening to Black folks. If we fix how we teach the Holocaust, then we need to address how we teach about slavery and the genocide of Indigenous people in America.
Within moments of the audio released that exposes the both-side fallacy of the Southlakes’ school board meeting, White folks (mostly liberals) railed against the injustice of teaching two sides to the Holocaust. They are right. No matter how anyone tries to twist it, the Holocaust was an undeniable tragedy and we should do everything in our power to ensure Jewish people never feel the threat of anti-semitism again. However, I can’t help but think it would be nice if we lived in a world where White folks also acknowledged there were no two sides to slavery and fought for a critical evaluation of the role slavery played in America’s founding and its current social structures.
No group of people’s suffering is greater than another. And my goal is not to diminish the experiences of Jewish people. However, by failing to fight for a history that tells the truth about America’s sins, White folks are like the pot calling the kettle black. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but if there are no two sides to the Holocaust, there are no two sides to slavery, Jim Crow, or anti-Black racism either.