Let’s talk about history.
Ramble of the Day
I spent time yesterday reading Eddie S. Glaude Jr.’s essay published by The New Yorker last week, part of his upcoming book, Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own. Glaude uses examples from Baldwin’s life and recent American history to outline that collectively, we perceive history as “pleasant reading,” as sociologist W. E. B. DuBois described it, which is inherently an inaccurate reading of the past.
In the case of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. specifically, this is how Glaude explains it:
[Baldwin] knew that the civil-rights movement could easily be conscripted into the story of how Americans, in their inherent goodness, had perfected the Union. ...
King’s death had revealed the bitterness at the bottom of the cup. What Baldwin saw on that dangerous road that led to King’s death, in Memphis, was the difficult question of whether or not the country had the courage to confront its demons. Could America tell itself the truth about how it had arrived at this moment? And did it have the moral stamina to surrender the comfort of its lies?
History is fairly complicated, and Glaude’s argument is inherently that we must acknowledge that it is. The argument is fairly straightforward, but Glaude lays out the many examples where that seemingly simple task has not been completed. Interpreting the civil rights movement is one — we have not understood the hard truths of the 1960s enough, from King’s assassination to police attacking protestors in Selma, Alabama, because we are having many of these conversations decades later.
The essay naturally reaches the topic of removing statues and renaming buildings and locations, and again I found that Glaude makes the point that “in moments of revolution or profound cultural shifts, one of the first things that people remove are symbols of old values.” In my eyes, it comes down to two things. The first is the aforementioned point of recognizing the wrongdoings of the past, particularly those that lead to the discriminatory oppression of many, is a very important exercise in both understanding history and making sure we don’t repeat it. The second is another point that symbols of that oppression really cannot be considered neutral, especially if people continue to be oppressed.
Those are just a couple of takeaways from Glaude’s essay, but I really do recommend taking the time to read it. It does focus on American history specifically, but it addresses global topics about how we remember history.
Links of the Day
The Orlando Pride withdrew from the NWSL Challenge Cup after six players and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
The Dutch men’s, women’s, and youth national teams will boycott sports TV show Veronica Inside because former Johan Derksen frequently makes racist comments on the show.
Japan dropped its bid to host the 2023 World Cup, leaving just Colombia and a joint bid from Australia and New Zealand as the contenders.
A longer read: former Tottenham and Blackpool midfielder Paul Stewart wrote about being a sexual assault survivor for The Guardian