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So I've had a few folks asking me what I meant when I said "bad history is the opiate of racists" earlier. Let me see if I can briefly explain. (mini-thread, will try not to be a pedantic historian)

2. Just as Marx once observed that religion serves as an opiate for the masses, in that it blunts apprehension of their true problems, bad history-like the "the US abolished slavery so early, yay freedom!" takes-prevent racists from realizing their racism and its consequences
3. In this sense, there's three ways in which these distortions of the past are actively making things worse when it comes to slavery, racisms, and the odious operations of both. First, the trope of "American Exceptionalism" positions the US as some sort of moral avatar,
4.and thus ignores how uterrly alike many other places in the world the US really was/is-like Brazil or Cuba, when it comes to resisting emancipation. By embracing exceptionalism, we're too busy listening to aspirational propaganda (City on a hill! Woo!) to see the actual reality
5. Second, this type of knee-jerk patriotic deployment of "history" is use of teleology, an explanation of the past that's dictated by a presently-built narrative instead of by, you know, the actual past. It's telling the story of US history as "the rise of freedom" for example,
6. or as "the US fulfills god's purpose." It's structuring a narrativer to fit a preordained result. Seeing history teleologically allows someone to position things like slavery as "part of god's plan," regrettable but necessary to "get to where we are today." That's an opiate.
7. In a teleology, no one has agency. Stuff happens, but it's no one's fault, nor is it the product of actual decisions made and actions taken by humans. Yet that's exactly what phenomena like enslavement ARE-the sum total of those decisions and actions! We have to reckon w. that
8. Finally, the 3rd way the Walshes and D'Souzas and their ilk distort history and give racists an easy off-ramp is through their framing of the past and present as a simple binary, where stuff that happened was bad, but today is good simply because it's further along in time.
9. It's like the history essay cliche where a student writes something like "sure, the Civil War was carnage but thankfully we have learned from the past." But again, we're taking human agency out of the equation. The mere act of time passing doesn't make things better!
10. There's lots of things that get *worse* as time passes: staph infections, for example, or the New York Knicks. Seeing the passage of time as automatically improving things is an opiate-No one has to fix anything, because things just magically get better! Problem solved!
11. Again, as Marx wrote, people make their own history, even if they don't get to do so in conditions of their own choosing. But these right-wing distortions of history *erase* people and their agency, replacing them with vague and fuzzy concepts like "freedom" and "progress."
12. In doing so, they absolve racists for racism, elide the decisions and actions of enslavers, and provide an easy out for those who cannot or will not reckon with the legacies of slavery and racism. And that's how bad history is an opiate for racists. /fin
PS-sorry about that gif.
Yeah, that one.
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