March 30, 2010

Twisting History in Texas

Via my buddy Ubub, this great essay on the Texas history idiocy by none other than Eric Foner. I have used his textbook for years and still think that his treatment of Reconstruction as well as his "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free men" rank as some great American historical scholarship.

Here he places the Texas idiots in a context, and though he doesn't really say this, points to the racist tendencies from this Texas board. At every point, those who contributed to racial equality are shunted aside for someone else, or the racial sins are simply omitted or reduced. Slavery is less important to the dentist from Texas than it is to the rest of us, I guess.
The Double-V Campaign during World War II (blacks' demand that victory over the Axis powers be accompanied by victory over segregation at home) has been omitted from the high school curriculum. Japanese-American internment is now juxtaposed with "the regulation of some foreign nationals," ignoring the fact that while a few Germans and Italians were imprisoned as enemy aliens, the vast majority of people of Japanese ancestry who were interned were US citizens.
This is, quite frankly, the type of shit that my students routinely believe happens with history. This is the case of the "winner writing the history," which, I have suggested to numerous classes, is not a terribly useful way to see historical scholarship. The 20th century's expansion of voices, from the women's movement to African American civil rights and Native American scholars--all expanded our understanding of the past, and undermined that simplistic, and cynical bromide. That, as I have made clear in my lectures, is part of what has made America great--that those additional voices tapped into the Constitution and belief in liberalism and republicanism to right wrongs. That people could use the same document that once labeled African slaves as 3/5 of a person to justify civil rights? That is pretty fucking amazing.

But this unifying and inclusive force that has broadened our understanding of the past is toxic for the Texas dentist and realtor. No, much better to emphasize the Parson Weems' approach to history.


steves said...

From what I have been able to tell, support for these changes is not universal among conservatives. There has been a fair amount of ridicule among intelligent conservatives, non-religious conservatives and libertarians

Streak said...

Steve, I think there is something to that, though I am not sure what level of disconnect there is. The one guy lost his recent bid for reelection to a more moderate Republican, so that is hope.