on this #MLKDay I appreciate the context from @JeanneTheoharis's book A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History. I'm going to share some passages that I think are useful & informative on what she calls "mis-histories" of the movement.
The book is basically about the mischaracterizations of the civil rights movements as we're taught it most often, especially as it pertains to Dr. King and Rosa Parks. The rhetoric of the movement has been co-opted to support things that stand directly against its principles.
"Political leaders, pundits, and citizens came to see and tell the story of the modern civil rights movement as one of progress and national redemption."
"A movement that had challenged the very fabric of US politics and society was turned into one that demonstrated how great and expansive the country was-- a story of individual bravery, natural evolution, and the long march to a 'more perfect union.'"
man why were we ever mad at 280 characters? this is great
"Politicians and others shrank the progressive, expansive, challenging vision of the modern Black freedom struggle into something more passive, individualistic, and privatized-- a dream diluted and distorted."
A quote from anthropologist Michel-Ralph Trouillot: the task of commemoration "help[s] to create, modify or sanction the public meanings attached to historical events deemed worthy of mass celebration... to create a pass that seems both more real and more elementary."
"Racial injustice is America's original sin and deepest silence... paradoxically, this ways the nation has memorialized the civil rights movement has become a way to maintain such silences. The history of American racism has become just that... history." GO IN JEANNE THEOHARIS
"This national mythologizing of the civil rights movement also took the movement away from everyday people, from community leaders and young activists and elder freedom fighters seeking to understand where the country was and how to build movements today."
"This fable of the movement became a potent obstacle and bludgeon used to diminish contemporary efforts, making today's activists seem inappropriate troublemakers who lacked the gravitas of yesterday's activists and who just weren't going about it the right way." this right here.
"This national fable of the civil rights movement became a weapon some used against these new movements for justice, as comparison after comparison was made to the civil rights movement to find BLM wanting."
"By diminishing the substance and scope of American racism and what the movement actually involved, these renderings work to maintain current injustice, at times chastising contemporary protesters in ways similar to the ways civil rights activists were demonized...."
I think my fave point that she makes here is about the lie of the way we tell the civil rights movement, that it was an inevitable widget of American progress. that the machine of American truth & justice was working just fine, and that's how the movement was successful.
"A tribute to a quiet heroine and a dreamy hero proves that good values and individual acts are rewarded-- that once revealed, real injustice is eradicated in a democracy like America... US democracy, in this version, is a self-cleaning oven..."
"This 'self-cleaning America' fable conveniently makes it seem as if the US was destined to have a great civil rights movement, and that most people did the right thing at the time... [this] obscures a much more sobering reality: how hard and infrequent such courage was..."
"...Far from being acceptable, passive, or unified, the civil rights movement was unpopular, disruptive, and deeply persevering."
- Jeanne Theoharis
~@JeanneTheoharis notes that politicians' rhetoric around the King holiday entrenched some of these lies. When he signed the bill approving the holiday, Reagan said: "we can take pride in the knowledge that we Americans recognized a grave injustice and took action to correct it."
"Reagan's remarks zeroed in on what would soon become key elements of the national fable of the CRM: that there *had been* an injustice, but once these *courageous individuals freely* pointed it out, it was corrected, and so proved the *greatness of American democracy.*"
"The story of a movement created by thousands of people and of a man who had been surveilled relentlessly by the FBI was rendered as a Horatio Alger story of personal scrappiness and American exceptionalism." come on somebody!
If you want to learn more you can see @JeanneTheoharis interviewed on @democracynow about the book: democracynow.org/2018/2/6/a_mor…
Oh and @JeanneTheoharis has an op-ed in the NYT today! nytimes.com/2019/01/20/opi…
today, yesterday. what even is time
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