America needs a revolution

Sixty years ago, on Aug. 27, 1960, whites handed out free ax handles to anyone willing to use them to attack the Black students who were “sitting in” to integrate lunch counters in Jacksonville, Florida, just as youth were doing throughout the South. This young man’s name is Charlie Griffin, and even the cop seems appalled at his beating. “I think a lot of white people are very comforted by thinking about the civil rights movement as being universally nonviolent, but it was extremely violent, and, like Ax Handle Saturday, that violence was committed by white people to protect this white supremacist ideology. So, I think some of the disconnect starts with our educational system,” observes Dr. Christopher Janson, University of North Florida.

by Kheven LaGrone

Racial violence against Black America is a regular part of America’s history; hiding and denying this racial violence is also a part of America’s history. For decades, African Americans have complained about police brutality. White America dismissed them or paid little attention. Some argued that the justice system was fair; Black people got themselves killed. Such denial allowed White America to feel innocent.

But the image of a white policeman slowly killing a handcuffed Black man shook that white innocence. Though George Floyd was not perfect, on May 25, 2020, he was wrongly murdered by a representative of the justice system. The coldness of the murder was videotaped and therefore undeniable. America could not play innocent.

Because of the video, White people protested against racial injustice, racist police brutality and even their white privilege. White innocence morphed into “Black Lives Matter.” Many talked about a revolution.

One of these protests was held at Lake Merritt in Oakland a week before Juneteenth (a holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States). Protesters waved “Black Lives Matter” signs. Most of the protesters were white. Ironically, many probably were part of the gentrifiers who displaced African Americans from Oakland. Other protesters were Asian, LatinX and African American. A DJ blasted music and people danced to it. At least one of the songs used the N-word.

But dancing and waving signs are not as revolutionary as knowing America’s Black history; knowledge of Black history actually would make Black lives matter. Yet, Americans are not educated about their Black history in our schools. For example, my high school American history class never mentioned American slavery. We passed over the paragraph and a picture in our textbook.

Years later, there was a push to include Black history in schools. White conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh argued that African Americans should not study our history because it would make us angry. 

But why would Limbaugh suddenly care about hurting Black people’s feelings? He had often said things on his show that would make Black people angry. That was one of his gimmicks. Another of his gimmicks was to romanticize American history as a time of liberty, equality and opportunity. Studying American slavery tarnishes that gimmick.

In college, Black American culture and history were not taught in “regular” classes. They were ghettoized into departments of Black Studies, Ethnic Studies, Multiculturalism, etc. Mainly Black students took these classes. 

In addition, those courses often were not taken seriously outside of their departments.

America needs a revolution to include Black history in its nationwide education. No American of any color or nationality is educated unless he or she is familiar with America’s Black history.

The video of Floyd’s murder opened our eyes to America’s history of racial violence. We now see that Black history is everywhere. When President Trump announced having his rally on June 19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he brought attention to Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day. Before his announcement, most Americans had not heard of the holiday. Now New York has made it an official holiday. For the first time, thousands of African Americans celebrated Juneteenth at Lake Merritt in Oakland. 

Trump’s announcement also brought attention to the 1921 Tulsa massacre. In 1921, Tulsa had a thriving business district often called “Black Wall Street.” White rioters looted and burned it down. They killed hundreds of innocent people. This terrorism was not just Black history; it was a significant event in American history. Yet, few people knew about it.

The announcement of the 2020 Republican National Convention brought attention to another event in American history. Initially, the main part of the Republican National Convention was to be held in Jacksonville, Florida, from Aug. 24 to Aug. 27, 2020. Aug. 27 is also “Ax Handle Saturday” in Jacksonville. On that date in 1960, over 200 white people with baseball bats and ax handles chased and beat Black people in downtown Jacksonville. White police joined in the attacks against African Americans. Again, this is not just Black history; it’s American history.

America’s education system has allowed Americans of every color and nationality to be appallingly ignorant of America’s Black history. When the U. S. Treasury announced that it was putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, most Americans hadn’t heard of her. 

America needs a revolution to include Black history in its nationwide education. No American of any color or nationality is educated unless he or she is familiar with America’s Black history. This education must begin early. It must be included in the general school curriculum. 

Privileged Americans like Rush Limbaugh will resist such education; they would prefer all Americans remain ignorant. Perhaps defunding the police and removing confederate statues would be less threatening to them.

Kheven LaGrone, investigative reporter, activist, writer, artist and curator, can be reached at kheven@aol.com. He is also a licensed civil engineer.