Letter

To Understand Our Nation, Teach Real History

It is not the fault of anyone living today that our economic success was at one time deeply tied to the institution of slavery

By Gail Trenfield

The American Experiment has been a fascinating story – and a study in contrasts. We have proven to the world that a democratic republic can work; provided lives of opportunity for immigrants who faced poverty and oppression at home; fought a powerful fascist movement and won; and made our country an engine of innovation. There is a great deal to be proud of.  

It is not the fault of anyone living today that our economic success was at one time deeply tied to the institution of slavery – or that the fruits of that success have not been extended fairly to the descendants of those who were enslaved. 

In fact, many people of all backgrounds were allies in another great American accomplishment – the Civil Rights movement – and today, few people would say that racial discrimination was ever justified. That does not mean, sadly, that the effects of discrimination do not live on – in decreased capital wealth, health care disparities, unequal treatment in the Justice System, and decreased education and opportunities.

That’s it – the basics of what some academics call Critical Race Theory – but what the rest of us might just call the Real History that we need in order to understand our nation, and to grow into a more just and fair society.  

We should be teaching this history in our schools, just as we should teach the experiences of Native Americans, Chinese, Hispanics, European immigrants, and women, as we forged a great nation from one which was created long ago for the benefit of white men who owned property.

Gail Trenfield
St. Ignatius

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.