The Great Humility of Unlearning our Patriarchal White Supremacist History

Heather Fink
4 min readJun 20, 2020

I’m posting all of these things lately about race in America (mostly on Facebook where it gets to suburbia & outside my bubble) & it’s important to me that nobody gets the impression that I think I’m an authority on any of this or right about all of these things. Plato once said that the only thing one knows for certain is that there are things you don’t know (paraphrasing) — which is proved every time you learn a new thing. All things we know can be disproven or changed. I have been naive on many things before learning better. But the one thing I’m nearly certain about, and what I’m going to continue doing — is that learning the truth & real history fights ignorance. And fighting ignorance is the root of fighting violence.

History as we are most widely and commonly taught is white washed, patriarchal, white supremacist, and exclusionary. Perhaps making history nice and pretty was out of concern for how children could handle it. But we are a culture that shows children a bleeding Jesus on a cross regularly. We do not learn properly about Juneteenth, the 1921 Tulsa Massacre, the Stonewall Uprising, the fight for the ERA, nor how Columbus fed poisoned cassava to indiginous infants in Haiti in order to conquer that land. Specific right? Ask yourself how much more there is to learn if you didn’t know about any of those things. I did not learn about ANY of those things properly until I was in my 30s. And I have a Master’s degree. I had a lot of schooling. I learned it from documentaries & books & wikipedia. It’s all out there and we can access this information no matter our schooling now.

Someone once confronted me as a feminist and asked why I, a big Arnie fan, give Arnold Schwarzenegger a pass over his womanizing ways. My answer has a few parts to it. First of all, he’s not like that now. He’s grown, corrected himself, and in his political career he’s an advocate for women’s reproductive rights & freedoms. He doesn’t have a history of sexual assault or violence against women either. But more importantly — I can’t pick Arnold out as being particularly sexist over any other man his generation because the REAL TRUTH is that our ENTIRE WORLD men & women & non binary is guilty of sexism. Don’t believe me? Try watching a movie from only a few years ago & you’ll see egregious sexism all over the damn place. Sexism is true & real and it’s affected everyone, including how women see themselves — so I have to look at how people are now. I support Biden but yes Biden was wrong with Anita Hill — he was also reflecting cultural norms at the time & has admitted he was wrong and apologized to the great Anita Hill.

We can pick out atrocities in people’s pasts yes. But to act like one white person wasn’t racist or one man wasn’t sexist is misguided to me. We all were, we all are in some respects no matter how hard we work not to be.

And that to me is the key. How hard do we work not to be?

Do we do the right thing when we learn better? When we know better?

Do we even TRY to learn better? Or do we not care? Because that’s the very definition of compassion. Consideration for others. Empathy. But first we must see others as human.

Hence the rally cry that Black Lives Matter- in that slogan is an ask for empathy & to humanize in a world that has been cruel, and in a world that has dehumanized Black people.

And you can do a little google on Aristotle who figured this thing out centuries ago in his Nicomachean Ethics that essentially said the key to happiness is living in virtue — virtue meaning doing the right thing based on what you know to be the right thing. When you know better — do better — boom, long term happiness. Do the right thing. This is highly simplified and paraphrased but I believe it’s good stuff.

One great modern historian is Erica Buddington. If you were shocked you never learned Juneteenth or the Tulsa massacre in school — well wow buckle up because there’s a WHOLE LOT more like it. Read it and learn how it’s “a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps” (MLK) furthermore how often times when Black Americans got boots, they were burned TF down.

Erica Buddington’s historical thread is here: https://twitter.com/ericabuddington/status/1266531249914601472

In conclusion, I’ve been wrong & I continue to be wrong and naive on a variety of things. As I continue to learn, I’ll be humbled by the things I never knew before. I am not an authority figure, and I’m grateful to those who read what I put out there, because what I’m putting out there is stuff I care about. So I thank you for your time.

Always learning, let’s do it together.

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