Diversity IS American History

I woke up this morning and spent time in prayer about my son who is turning 13 this week (omg where has the time gone…and why is he taller than me now??) AND about the racial tensions that are happening now. Both have me in tears this morning. Mainly my tears are about how we are in a time where no one is allowed to share their perspectives on race relations without being misunderstood. I am in tears because I realize (and have always realized that these were just smoke screens) the tensions are not really about CRT or anti-racism, because I am not promoting either in education and still there is rejection for any conversation about how to meet the needs of diverse students.

After posting about my upcoming webinar with UnidosUS on LinkedIn last night, I was confronted by a school leader from a charter school organization that I absolutely adore. My post about my webinar simply talked about how to learn about the Latino presence in American history. I am so shocked that just to mention that there are others who are part of American history, brings resistance. Our country is not just about George Washington. It is about George Washington, but it is also about General Bernardo de Galvaz, who marched with Washington. Our country is about Thomas Jefferson, but it is also about the early Spanish explorers. Our country is about the Constitution, but it is also about how that document has been used to help Latinos and many others fight for their equality here. In fact, if we tell these stories right, our children can see the beauty of how those documents have made us the most unique and powerful country in the world, because of how the founding documents safeguard and help us fight against oppressive leadership. If our children don’t understand these types of stories, then they cannot fully understand how to participate in our democracy and how to use these documents for their own progress! Any one of us can take these documents to the highest court and declare our equality. Those documents empower us to have a voice! Telling the story of this IS AMERICAN HISTORY!

American history is not just about those who signed the Constitution or about those who were at Plymouth Rock. American history includes those stories, but it branches out from those stories to encompass ALL of us and our ancestors who have called this place our home. Why is this something people resist? I remember enrolling a Latino student and telling him about Sonia Sotomayor. Even though he was not from her same country, the way his mouth fell open and the shock on his face…he then whispered “She’s on the Supreme Court?” I live for those moments! Some of us are not elevating these stories to erase the stories of America’s founding. Some of us elevate these stories WITH those stories to unveil the truth of how America in all of its flawed history has been on this messy, painful, beautiful, difficult, victorious, challenging path to be a country of the people, by the people, for the people…ALL PEOPLE!

We should be able to celebrate the diverse stories without feeling like there is division. Telling the stories of the different people groups here can be done in a unifying way that should draw us into loving this country more! I think of how families may have the same bloodline, but everyone is different. My brother is an athlete and I hate sports, but we are so close. I am not mad at him for how he yells at the TV screen during a game. I am artistic and am usually in a creative mood. He doesn’t roll his eyes at me for always crocheting. We recognize the blood that connects us and we together have grounded our family. I go to games he coaches for AAU and he comes to hear me sing when I perform. Maybe this is too simplistic an analogy, but should it be the same in our human relationships? We are all brothers and sisters with the same human blood running through our veins. If you’re a Christian, than you understand that we are all God’s children, created by him and in his image. Yet, we all have differences. Somehow, America found this crazy way to create a framework where all of these differences can reside in one country without totally destroying everyone and even connecting around founding documents that declared our common humanity! We should want to tell our children the history of how this magical thing happened! How does a country for over 200 years old, manage to keep a democracy going through inner turmoil as these differences adjusted to being in one place? It is just simply magical. It is a story full of so much pain, but one full of so much hope.

Yet, we are in a time where even those of us who want to bring this story of how America’s founding evolved into embracing ALL people, are silenced and rejected. People are not just rejecting CRT or anti-racism. People are rejecting the very founding principal of America. Early settlers came here for religious pluralism. They ran from an oppressive kingdom that wanted to force one religion or belief system on people. America’s whole purpose was to be a place where all people, no matter what they believed can live in peace. That purpose evolved into embracing not just diversity of belief, but diversity of ethnicities and cultures. Every single people group from Mexico to Japan to Africa to Israel to the Middle East and EVERYWHERE has a story of how their people came to call this place home and that story always involves going back to how those foundational documents and the very structure of our democracy helped them to find a home here.

If we are NOT teaching this, then we are not teaching American history and neither do we truly understand what the founding fathers actually intended. e pluribus unum.

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