The way that history is commonly presented in the US (at least in my experience) has been lacking in intersectionality and ironically historical context. I don’t think that individual history teachers are the root of this problem in part because there are systemic issues that play out, like how public schools are often underfunded, overcrowded, and fail to address racism.
Months and events like Black History Month and LGBTQ+ History Month are so necessary because of the ways in which we as a society (especially we as white people in power) have written about history. We often alienate the others of society while learning about history – we whitewash and in some cases, don’t even address some things. (And no we don’t need a White History Month because that’s literally every other goddamn month at this point. We don’t need everything to be about us and our whiteness!!)
I think it’s so important to relearn history and reimagine the ways in which we talk and interact with historical events and people because the way history is often presented, we miss out on so much context and understanding. There are so many examples and things that we miss out on in the whitewashing of history:
- Like how Hawaii became a part of the US because of an extremely illegal military coup that the US was very much a part of over 120 years ago. Many Native Hawaiians have fought for their kingdom back from the US federal government, something that has unfortunately been declined repeatedly.
- What we know about both Christopher Columbus and Thanksgiving are really really wrong. We should be learning more about the indigenous people of the US and the rest of the Americas (aka the people who were here to greet Columbus after he got lost n 1492…) and the history books aren’t doing a great job at that.
- Or even that Oregon was actually started as a racist utopia. The south and bible belt of the US typically have that stereotype of being racist and filled with white supremacy but that’s so not the case because racism and white supremacy unfortunately exist all over the country. Films like Whitelandia and Local Color are looking at and bringing attention to this problem. (The makers of Whitelandia have done an interview with OPB and I share some of the concerns that they are two white producers behind this problem but that’s not completely relevant right now…)
And there’s so much of queer history that exists but hardly mentioned. Being queer or LGBTQ+ isn’t new or some trend – there’s a rich history of this community and LGBTQ+ people. Eboné Bell collected some images of queer pioneers from the past and there’s even a pop up museum of queer history that does temporary art installations celebrating the largely unknown LGBT history.
The Stonewall Inn Riots and the Cooper’s Donuts, and Compton’s Cafeteria riots are all important events in US LGBTQ+ history but hardly ever widely spoken of. The Quist App has a wide range of information and resources about queer history, like how guys found guys before the internet and LGBT history walking tours.
There are some interesting ways to learn about history (because it can be boring at times). I already mentioned the Quist App for LGBTQ+ history but there’s also the podcast Stuff You Missed in History, one that I actually really like listening to!