The U.S. history sections of public libraries have literally hundreds of publications. No book, however, explains how democracy, which professes freedom and equality under the law, could co-exist with the practice of slavery. W.E.B. DuBois, Professor of History and Afro-American studies at Harvard, said this of the equality narrative: “We are obliged to face the deforming mirror of truth.” 

Certainly nothing in history argues “sameness” as a defining principle for equality under the law. Rather, folks who believe in the possibility of the equality of human beings must continue efforts welcoming diverse populations into our democracy. First, however, we must be willing to face our past history, no matter how shameful it was. True history reports that our forefather settlers plundered Native Americans to establish our nation, and that we brought Africans to America, with few exceptions, as forced labor, treating them inhumanely as slaves. 

In recent years, Trump followers have initiated a concerted effort to rewrite the history of slavery and the settling of our country. They believe that painting these tumultuous times as peaceful transitions, sanitizing it of the violence we perpetrated, would be readily accepted and welcomed. Additionally, the new history would portray Trump’s scapegoats as the villains of society — African Americans, Native Americans, immigrants, Muslims, Latinos, Jews, and whomever else are on Trump’s list of enemies. 

The goal of Trumpers is a nefarious one, taking a page out of the Hitler playbook. Hitler bragged, “Influence children, you have captured the state.” Toward this end today, there are attempts to infiltrate school boards with folks who support the white-washing of our past misdeeds and the furtherance of Trump’s list of enemies of the state. Trumpers believe that our children can be led easily down the distorted and dishonest Trump path. This frightening scenario must be thwarted! Trumpers must not serve as school board members.

What we hadn’t realized before the attempted treasonous coup of January 6th, is that all those horrendous plots were not just a means for Trump to remain in office or to discourage opposition. The intention was to end democracy in total. Trump and his followers envision an autocratic government for our nation with Trump as its everlasting dictator at the helm.

How do historians write the history of Trumpism? It must include his support of White Supremacy and describe his efforts to foster hatred and fear against all who, in his paranoid state, he considers enemies. To succeed in ending Trump’s negative campaign of fear, hate, power, greed, we have the enormous task of writing a history of truth. Further, we must bolster our laws and policies to promote equality for all of our diverse populations. My fear is that our deep social and political divisions are so entrenched that political change alone will not produce a new and better future for all.

I recently read some of the newly revised publication of The 1619 Project. It is an unusual grouping of simple essays and poems, most of which are steeped in the varied cultural and/or traditional views of our diverse past. Its refreshing and intelligent perspectives offer insight to a future in which all in our population can contribute to the tenets of a sound democracy. Perhaps this little book can lead the way to a future history — and a legacy of which we can be proud.

Harriet Hausman is a longtime River Forest resident and a member of the ACLU.

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