Are we redefining history or erasing it?
“History is written by the victors.” Attributed often to Winston Churchill, this quote summarizes how history is often written, especially when it comes to politics and world affairs. One only has to look at the Tulsa Race Massacre—a horrifying piece of history that involved mobs of whites attacking the black residents of Tulsa Oklahoma in 1921, killing hundreds in the process and burning the business district to the ground. This attack is attributed to being the single worst incident of racial violence in American history. Yet, it wasn’t until only recently that we collectively were made aware of this ugly piece of history.
Locally, the announcement of the removal of the Fountain of the Pioneers from Bronson Park spurred anger and heated debates from both sides. Designed in 1937, the fountain featured an armed white man standing before a kneeling American Indian, and was hailed by many as a modern work of art, even gathering critical acclaim from Frank Lloyd Wright. But more recently, some saw the fountain as racist and memorializing genocide. In 2018, the City of Kalamazoo removed the fountain to the dismay and disappointment of many who viewed the decision as erasing history and catering to a select few.
Where is the thin line between cultural evolution and erasing history, and is there a compromise? We need to acknowledge that those who have ancestors in America who have suffered at the hands of others, deserve to walk through a public park without having to explain to their children, the statues and monuments celebrating the demise of their ancestors and culture. How do we learn from history if we are only reading the whitewashed version. Can we still acknowledge these pieces of historical art without insulting differing cultures?
Of course, we can.
Moving questionable historical pieces out of public parks, and into museums and historical grounds, where the piece can be depicted along with proper data and intellectual content, is a good start.
The literary world is also dealing with Cancel Culture. One book under the spotlight is the epic novel, “Gone with the Wind,” with many calling for the book to be pulled from libraries, and the movie pulled from viewership. Actress Whoopie Goldberg argued that Americans should be careful about retracting part of our history and instead suggested that “Gone with the Wind” could feature a disclaimer at the beginning of the film. Goldberg is absolutely correct. Censorship is wrong on any level. Historical literature and films can and should remain with proper context. And rightly so, HBO Max has reportedly said that it will resume airing “Gone with the Wind” along with context surrounding its content.
In another positive move, the family of Dr. Suess stopped future publications of several Dr. Suess books deemed racist. It is important to note that these books are not banned. They are simply not printing future editions. It was the right decision.
Cancel Culture isn’t about erasing history, it’s about redefining how we view it. And it’s damn time children learned of the Tulsa Race Massacre from history books.
Heidi McCrary is a writer and a regular contributor to Moxie Magazine. Her novel, Chasing North Star is available at Kazoo Books, This is a Bookstore, and online wherever books are sold. Follow Heidi at heidimccrary.net and facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor