Last night I caught the end of a PBS Frontline program on Haitian refugees who were detained by the US government at Guantanamo Bay in the 1990s. The policy seemed to be a carry over from President Bush to President Clinton. Eventually and slowly the refugees were able to enter America, but only after the PRESS - yes that enemy to America according to our current POTUS, or could it just be the enemy to injustice, I leave that for you to decide as we are seeing injustice by both Democrats and Republicans in this instance. Back to history- The press recorded the brutal treatment the Haitian refugees suffered at the hands of American military troops. This expedited the release from Guantanamo Bay and migration to America, however there was one group that was debated even into the high courts. Haitians who were HIV were denied entrance until the courts finally ruled in their favor.
This is but one example of injustice in our history. I had also seen a post on Twitter Recently about the Japanese Interment so I went back and took a few screenshots of those images. In reading through the feed many made a connection between this event and our current President's push for a Muslim Ban. As someone who studied history I understand the desire to project a sense of security to a nation as FEAR is a powerful force. Unfortunately trying to prevent fear about one issue creates FEAR of another kind. By alienating and demonizing and stereotyping one group of people we create FEAR that turns into distrust, anger and even violence towards that group of people. We saw in the execution of Executive order 9066 that people many of whom were US Citizens entitled to due process and protections of the law were stripped of their homes, possessions and freedoms.
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with LIBERTY and JUSTICE for all."
Please read those words and take pause in the last phrase - Liberty and Justice for all! We spent last week talking about African American History and know our nations policies and many individuals did not support or provide Liberty and Justice for African Americans and we still struggle with equality today. Think about other groups and how we view and treat them in society. Do we live up to those ideals.
I used to ask these questions to my students and had a parent challenge me as to why I would show these negatives of America, why I wouldn't continue to build it up as the best nation in the world. My response - I truly believe America is a Great Nation and always has been despite campaign rhetoric. My purpose for shedding light on these an other instances, (we haven't even touched on the treatment of Native Americans) but I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't present history from a variety of perspectives that provide accurate accounts of the actions and intentions of those who shaped history and the consequences of those decisions. It is not my intent to tear down America but rather build it up. You can't improve upon something until you discover the flaws, imperfections and at times the glaring disfunction of the system.
America is a great nation made up of people who are imperfect making imperfect and sometimes horrendous decisions. If we ignore those past mistakes and injustices we are destined to relive similar events in our present and future. We cannot sit idly by as our government and many citizens work to segregate, dehumanize groups of people and instill FEAR and mistrust in others based on religious beliefs or where they come from.
Q1 The only thing we have to FEAR is FEAR itself! What does this mean to you, and how can you use this concept/understanding with educating our future leaders/current students?
Q2 Make America Great! (again?) What does this mean to you? What does it look like? How do we achieve greatness for all?
Q3 How do you use events like the Japanese Internment and Haitian Refugees to teach our students?
Q4 Why are events like these vital to teach our students? What do we hope they will learn?
Q5 They came for the African Americans and I said nothing, They came for the Japanese Americans and I said nothing, They came for the Haitian Refugees and I said nothing, They came for the Mexican Immigrants and I said nothing, They came for the Muslim Immigrants and I said nothing... When we say nothing we give consent to the actions. How do we stand up and help our students learn to stand up to injustice around them?
Q6 The Press is the Enemy of America! This attack on the Freedom of the Press, and their legitimacy, can cause catastrophic damage to our own freedoms and liberties. How do we protect these freedoms and teach their value to students in a time of "Fake News" and Alternative Facts"?
Q7 Liberty and Justice for ALL! How do we teach history knowing that this hasn't always been the case? How do we educate our students about injustice and still maintain a democratic system of peaceful discourse?