Who Tells America’s Story?

Like millions of other Americans, I plan on planting myself in front of my TV tonight to watch #HamiltonFilm. I can’t wait for it! (See what I did there?)

One of the main themes Lin-Manuel Miranda explores in his famous musical is story-telling, as it relates to history-making. He (and his Hamilton character) are conscious that “history is written by the victors.” That if you aren’t able to tell your own story, someone else will tell it for you or—as is often the case—erase your story altogether.

Anti-racism work begins with becoming more conscious about who has traditionally told the American story. Whose stories have not been told? Whose perspectives have been left out? Anti-racism work continues with un-learning the histories we were taught in school and interrogating our national mythologies. [<<<Read this page to learn more about that]

This Fourth of July weekend, invest some time listening to perspectives on the holiday that push up against the stories we’ve always been told about America. Watch Hamilton! But also…

Listen to James Earl Jones read an excerpt from Frederick Douglass’ “What To The Slave Is The Fourth of July?” speech, or read it in its entirety here.

Read Shirley Geok-Lin Lim’s poem, Learning To Love America.

Read Alicia Ostriker’s poem, The History of America.

Read Langston Hughes’ poems, Let America Be America Again and I, Too.

Read Hoa Nguyen’s poem, Independence Day 2010.

Engaging with these words, these voices, might cause discomfort or create dissonance; try to just sit for a while with those feelings and thoughts without becoming defensive or tapping out. This, too, is the work.

One last note: I just posted a new BIG IDEA page: Race Is A Social Construct. Check it out!

And have a great weekend, everyone.

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