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Doug Mann LPN, LNC

American History that's not taught in school

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American History that's not taught in school
Genocide against the Indians, the post-Civil War civil war, the birth of American Apartheid, and unfinished business of the Civil Rights movement
By Doug Mann

The real history of this country is generally not taught in the K-12 school system. For example, most students don't know that by some estimates there were about 20-40 million Native Americans in what is now the continental US in 1492, and most were settled gardeners / farmers whose understanding of the art of crop-growing was more advanced than the Europeans in some respects, such as how to avoid depletion of nutrients in the soil by growing certain plants together (e.g., corn and beans). In order to start farming, the so-called pilgrims didn't have to clear much land. It was mostly a matter of taking over the farms of Native Americans. The term "genocide" is just as applicable to Native Americans since the early 1500s as it is to Jews and Gypsies in German-occupied Europe in the 1930s and 40s. And a much more thorough job was done of exterminating Native Americans in what is now the continental US.

In a study of the reconstruction era (1868-1876), W. E. B. DuBois described the situation in much of the Deep South as a "simmering civil war" from the end of the Civil war to the early 1890s. Progress toward the "reconstruction of democracy" was uneven, and incomplete in the South and everywhere else in the US, but was not easily or quickly rolled back in the Deep South after federal troops were withdrawn in 1877.

The Republican Party leadership was not really committed to the cause of abolishing slavery until after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and the 1864 election, which the Republicans swept on a platform of abolishing slavery. The emancipation proclamation didn't proclaim the liberation of any slaves in union-held territory, only in areas controlled by the secessionists.

Andrew Johnson, who completed Lincoln's 2nd term as president, was impeached by the US House of Representative and narrowly avoided being removed from office by the Senate. Johnson, and a large part of the US Senate obstructed efforts to legislate and enforce civil rights laws, equalize access to public accommodations, etc.

It wasn't until 1868 that Congress passed constitutional amendments outlawing slavery and requiring equal protection of the law regardless of race (13th and 14th amendments). It wasn't until 1868 that most 'union' states, including Minnesota, recognized people of African descent as citizens with the right to vote, hold public office, serve on juries, etc. A system of public education was also established in 1868 (There was not a public school system in most states before that time).

A system of racial "apartheid" was established during the 1890s to about 1920. Racial segregation was allowed by the US Supreme Court in the late 1890s. Racial segregation of the US military and Washington, DC wasn't accomplished until the eve of the First World War, under Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat.

An event that probably contributed a lot to the rise of a nationwide, white supremacist movement in the 1890s was the smashing of the industrial union movement in the aftermath of the Haymarket massacre of 1886. The first wave of industrial union organizing was done through the Knights of Labor, with membership in its industrial division peaking at about 500,000 in 1886. Many pre-existing craft unions had also affiliated to the Knights of Labor. However, most of the K of L craft unions severed their ties with industrial unionism and set up the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1886. The AFL was less committed to idea of promoting racial equality, and less interested in recruiting black workers as members with full rights. Most AFL unions took the path of least resistance in response to the rise of the Klu Klux Klan, by expelling blacks from their ranks, and excluding blacks from skilled trades.

The rise of the CIO in the 1930s and 40s played some role in laying the basis for the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. CIO unions were generally not very successful in organizing workers where blacks had jobs or could be readily employed as strikebreakers, unless black workers were accepted as members on the same basis as whites. Even some of the denser, more bigoted whites could see that it was in their class interests to oppose discrimination against blacks on the job and in the union.

In the past twenty years, the Democratic Party has abandoned the role of an advocate for the enforcement of Civil Rights laws, especially in the public school system. We have also seen, and continue to see only token enforcement of fair housing and labor laws that were enacted in the 1940s.

Affirmative Action programs covering the employees of federal contractors and some employers engaged in interstate commerce were created in the early 1970s. In general, such affirmative action programs require mandated "Equal Opportunity" employers to take
steps to attract a racially diverse workforce, but are not accompanied by programs to detect racial discrimination and punish the discriminators. There is generally a rule that employers must hire a very small proportion of the members of protected classes who apply for jobs. For example, if 25% of applicants who meet or exceed minimum qualifications for the job are black, at least 5% of new hires have to be black. That 5% is a hiring "quota" for employers who are trying to only minimally comply with the law.

Enforcement of fair housing laws is generally done through private action. The federal dept. of Housing and Urban Development has used survey teams to detect racial discrimination in the housing market, and to come up with estimates of how widespread it is. The HUD study in 2000 found that racial discrimination in the Twin Cities housing market is extremely pervasive, e.g., more often than not blacks are unable to rent or buy a dwelling unit solely due to their assigned racial identity. HUD has only prosecuted a handful of discriminators since the 1960s.

In my opinion, racial discrimination in the school system is the linchpin of a broader system of institutionalized racism. Access to a quality education improves access to the job market. US public school facilities and programs have been getting more segregated and unequal since the early 1980s. The so-called racial learning gap in K-12 public schools has been growing steadily since the mid-1980s. Differences in educational outcomes between whites and blacks are generally explained as a consequences of differences in the innate ability of students, rather than differences in the quality of education to which students have access. In other word, inferior outcomes are explained as being mostly a symptom of inferior intelligence (That's racist, and wrong, in my opinion)

The fact that the "racially learning gap" closed to a large degree in the 1970s and early 1980s may have something to do with implementation of a policy of "root and branch" desegregation and "reform" of ability grouping practices during a period from 1968 to 1975.

A rapid retreat from enforcement of civil rights laws in the US began during the Reagan-Bush administration, and was accompanied by what has been described as the mother of all disinformation campaigns kicked off by a report entitled "A nation at Risk" released on April 17, 1983.

I hope that the Green Party plays a prominent role in the rebirth of a real Civil Rights / Niagara movement by strengthening our platform in the area of enforcement of civil rights laws, and urging our candidates to make that an issue in their electoral campaigns and as public office holders.

Doug Mann for School Board in 2008