I have been thinking a lot about history lately, particularly my own (or lack of one). The farthest I can trace my family is through my maternal great-grandmother (My mom's mom's mom). As far as I know our whole family history is in Gulfport. I don't know anything or place besides that. I realize that this is too common for many African Americans. The Transatlantic Slave Trade ripped people away from their homes, cultures, and history. We never talked about Africa in school and we barely discussed slavery. As far as what I was taught in school, I had no history outside America and slavery. I really envy people who can trace their families back to their countries of origin and I feel upset that I cannot do the same. Slavery took that from us and I do not believe people really grasp what it means for a people to be ripped away from their home, taken to a strange land, and to be told for hundreds of years that you are inferior, you have no history, you have no culture, you're not even human. Do you know how many times I've heard someone say that Black people have no culture? Maybe they're too busy stealing Black culture to notice.
Everything we learn is about Europe or America and how great they are as if Africa did not have its own great universities that predated universities in Europe like Oxford. There are stories about beautiful structures built by Africans that were assumed to be built by Europeans because there's no way that Africans were smart enough to do anything like that. People still trying to act like Egyptians are White. Going through the education system with this is insult on top of insult on top of insult. Malcolm X posed the question: who taught you to hate yourself? My answer is racism, colonialism, slavery, Jim Crow, and the list goes on. I find myself having this painful longing to know where I came from. Maybe if I did one of those Ancestry.com kits I would learn more, but I'm wary about giving another company my DNA. I'm writing this knowing that some of you either won't understand it or will just straight up dismiss it, but this is my experience and these are my feelings. I didn't grow up with wealthy parents who could afford to send me to the best schools in the world. Some of us had a more difficult road to get here. If you would have told me as a teen that I would have a Ph.D., I probably wouldn't have believed because I was never shown that as an option for me. That's why history is important.
Looking back, you can see what is possible for you to become. Unfortunately, African Americans have not been given the same opportunity to look at their own history (or even to have it be told from their perspective. Imagine a White person lecturing you about Africa and how insulting that really is). Power and privilege. Who has the power to tell you your history? Who has the power to shape and mold your history to their gain? Too often for African Americans, that answer is not us.