The Naked Truth/Jamala Rogers

Why a Reckoning of Black History is Necessary: How the Word Has Been Passed

Jamala Rogers

Clint Smith isn't the first to talk about the centrality of African enslavement to U.S. History. However, the time of his most recent book is undeniably relevant.  How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America comes a time when white America is being pummeled with the consequences of the brutal and inhumane system of slavery and its legacy.

A series of events has intensified the pain and trauma of a system whose tentacles still have a hold on all of us in this country, especially those of us of African descent.

We have The 1619 Project, which some Black scholars argue didn't go far enough. Apparently, it went too far for many white conservatives. The New York Times ' ongoing project attempts to reframe the narrative of Black people and our history with this country.  With prompting from the GOP, white communities are fighting back to preserve their white privilege. The attack on so-called race theory is the latest battlefront.  White parents are rising up to oppose anything “Black” being taught to their children, often referencing The 1619 Project.

Then there was the public murder of George Floyd, an agonizing reminder of the lynching of Black people at the hands of white people always acting in the interest of white supremacy. The history of the origins of police has its roots in slave catching dating back to the 1700s. It was given legal cover with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, a Congressional deal cut between the Southern slave states and complicity with Northern Free-Soilers. Let's be clear: all captured Black folks were not enslaved, many were free.  12 Years a Slave dramatized this frequent injustice on the big screen for us back in 2013.

Recently the country was forced to come face to face with the horrific massacre in Tulsa Oklahoma. Like many similar atrocities through the ages, these incidents have been suppressed — even in the very communities where it happened. It has been brought in the sunlight.

We have another opportunity to take white supremacy by the horns and wrestle it to the ground until it says “uncle!” in a resounding way.  Those of us with a political consciousness along with those of us who are committed to truth have a responsibility to interrupt the racist narrative that has under-developed our humanity as a nation and demonized Blacks as a people.

Clint Smith's voice is added to the chorus which emphatically asserts that this country will never get through the darkness of slavery until it is fully acknowledged, dissected and rectified. This history is now our present and will be our future as long as it is suppressed, romanticized or white-washed. Smith uses various historical sites to show how the racist vestiges of slavery is ever present — sometimes subtle, other times blatant — but always destructive in its purpose.

Says Smith, “The history of slavery is a history of the United States. It was not peripheral to our founding; it was central to it. It is not irrelevant to our contemporary society; it created it.”

The reckoning of slave history is inevitable. There is no easy, quick or comfortable way to address it. What we must end is the continued devastating impact already done on generations who have gone before us. Now.