Civil Rights

Rewriting the history of slavery

LUDICROUS STATEMENTS recently made by Ben Carson and Betsy DeVos, both members of President Trump’s Cabinet, are nothing less than a flagrant attempt by this administration to recast this nation’s shameful history of slavery, bigotry, and oppression.

In his first staff address as Housing and Urban Development secretary, Carson should have stopped talking after calling America “a land of dreams and opportunity.” Nevertheless, he persisted. “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less,” Carson said. “But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”

You’ll need an earthmover to unpack everything offensive about Carson’s comment.


As inept as the Trump administration is, never underestimate its desire to craft a frightening new world order that will amend the past to cement its archaic vision of the future. Hardships like slavery and segregation are repackaged as cheery bootstrap parables. A Holocaust remembrance must now take “into account all of those who suffered,” as White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks said. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia compared it to something else: Holocaust denial.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” So what becomes of us when our history is systematically unmade? The first step in erasing history is to slowly erode our understanding of it. This isn’t just carelessness; it’s an act of contempt.

That’s why pushback to correct this revisionism must be as vigilant as efforts to thwart ongoing assaults on civil rights by this caustic presidency. Otherwise we may soon hear another member of this administration rhapsodizing about that wonderful era when African and African-American workers enjoyed nearly 250 years of prosperity and happiness, complete with free housing and zero unemployment.

Renée Graham can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham

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