At the height of the Great Depression my great-grandfather, Jose Patricio Martinez, and his family left their Northern New Mexico village where his family had farmed and tended sheep for centuries in search of work to support themselves. A recent widower, he traveled north with his teenage sons and daughters to the copper mines west of Salt Lake City, Utah where they found work and lived among others with Spanish surnames.
It’s only been in recent years that I have learned about my Martinez ancestors and pieced together their stories from census records, marriage and death certificates and recollections of my father’s cousins and other descendants. As I learn about these ancestors, I am filled with love for them and gratitude and respect for what they accomplished and the adversities they overcame.
Among those adversities was being Brown and Catholic in a state settled by White Mormon pioneers, who came almost exclusively from Great Britain and Scandinavia. My grandmother always insisted they live in the less affluent, mostly-Mexican neighborhoods, even when they could have afforded to move into the more expensive, white-dominated ones. My father remembers her saying, “We’d never fit in there.”
But then something both common and miraculous happened to her children. All three of them married descendants of those Mormon pioneers with whom my grandmother felt she never fit in. My father and his siblings and the Martinez’s of my generation all benefitted from the great American melting pot that allows for upward mobility and assimilation. It is the miracle of American greatness that different cultures come together and unite as one. It doesn’t happen like that anywhere else in the world.
In recent years, Americans have sought to do the same thing I did on a national scale, we are looking back at our history, trying to better understand the experiences of our ancestors. I welcome that journey back in time to unearth stories that have been sadly ignored. I am grateful we are putting greater emphasis on understanding the different historical experiences different groups have had. But it isn’t always pretty. History can be ugly, and frequently is.
One of the most beautiful books on this subject is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloots. Skloots writes the story of a Black woman in the 1940s whose body was used by White doctors in Baltimore for science without her knowledge or consent. Additionally, she had a daughter born with development problems who was put into a mental hospital where her family believe she was subjected to experimental treatments before dying at 15-years old. As one family member, Deborah (Dale) Lacks, learned more about the cruelty her mother and sister faced as the hands of White doctors, she concluded, “Like I’m always telling my brothers, if you gonna go into history, you can’t do it with a hate attitude. You got to remember, times was different.”
Deborah went on to say:
“We all black and white and everything else—this isn’t a race thing. There’s two sides to the story, and that’s what we want to bring out. Nothing about my mother is truth if it’s about wantin to fry the researchers. It’s not about punish the doctors or slander the hospital. I don’t want that.”
“All this stuff I’m learning, it make me realize that I did have a mother, and all the tragedy she went through. It hurts but I wanna know more, just like I wanna know about my sister. It make me feel closer to them.”
That is the spirit we must have with us as we explore our past, the desire to know our ancestors and when we know them, we can love them.
But the Woke crowd has hijacked our search for truth by imposing on it Critical Race Theory (CRT), a Marxist-based legal construct that is leading to hate and division.
Ian Rice, a Black father who spoke out against CRT at a recent school board meeting explained why it is destroying our country.
“[Teachers] are using their own agenda to indoctrinate the kids to hate each other. And whether you believe that to be true or not, that is what is happening. They are teaching that white people are bad. That’s not true.” Rice went on to say that his daughters are being taught that their mother, who is white is evil.
“I believe racial issues, and tensions across the U.S. are nowhere near what it used to be decades ago,” Rice continued. “Do we have a long way to go? For sure. But the people here in this room don’t look at me as a Black man, they look at me as a man sitting in front of you, addressing the issue that we all are very passionate about.”
A recent poll found only one-third of young people ages 18-24 are proud to be American and cite systemic racism as one of the reasons they are not proud of their country.
As I’ve come to know my ancestors, I’ve felt greater love for them. I propose that all study of history should be done with an eye toward improving ourselves. As author Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, do better.” But CRT is imposing a rigid and racist construct on our past that seeks to tear people down based upon their skin color. If we continue down this past, it will destroy us.
Amazing parent testimony on Critical Race Theory in our schools. pic.twitter.com/Llbe0yBn4U
— James Lindsay, uncitable (@ConceptualJames) July 5, 2021
Catherine Mortensen is Vice President of Communications for Americans for Limited Government.
Cross-posted with The Daily Torch
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