Daryl Grigsby: Ignoring uncomfortable facts
Terry McLaughlin’s July 14 column, “CRT’s (Critical Race Theory) attempt to reframe our country’s founding,” reminds me of Gil Scot-Heron’s poem, “Jose Campos Torres.” He began that poem with the comment, “I said I wasn’t gonna write any more poems like this … I made a mistake.” He worried that poetic responses to injustice did not matter, did not further understanding, and did not lead to the justice he sought.
McLaughlin’s column reminds me of his poem because I often wonder, after I’ve responded to an editorial, what difference does it make? Is there any movement toward understanding or justice? Did all I do is make myself feel better, receive applauds from those who already agree, and generate online commenters who disagree?
McLaughlin’s column, however, moves me to respond. I won’t recite books or scholars, for as many as she quotes I can cite those who support critical race theory. Then all we have is the battle of the self-selected scholars.
I would, rather, recount my experiences as a Black man with eight decades of life in America. I love my country. It is all l know. It is where I was born. It is where my great-grandfather and his mother were freed from slavery in Kentucky in 1863. His father was the slave master, who of course, remained on the plantation while his son begged on the streets of Louisville.
I do not believe America is the greatest nation on Earth, that America is blessed by God to be better than other nations, or that America, like all of humanity, is not tainted with the cumulative deeds of less than perfect people.
Knowing the ugly parts of our history lead not to despair, but to renewed vigor to work for a better country.
I have no problem with critical race theory. From my perspective, it is intended to balance the sometimes blindly patriotic education we consider history.
I have met many white people who are shocked when I mention my last name is from the Col. Neilsen Grigsby plantation in Culpeper, Virginia. These are well-educated people with years of schooling who are unaware of a basic reality, that African-Americans were property with no name but the master’s.
Further, the prevalence of fair-complexioned African-Americans in the United States is a consequence of mass rape by slave masters and their sons against their Black female property. My parents’ ancestors are all fair-skinned. None of them had a white spouse. Their complexion is from decades of forced sexual relations.
Critical race theory or just plain truth? Mass rape is seldom recounted in history books.
Further, McLaughlin misses the purpose of critical race theory in particular and history in general. History is not neutral; it is to learn from the past to build a better future. If we know how we got here, we can see more clearly the tasks that lie before us. We can begin the hard work of healing, reconciliation and justice.
I love my country, but it is far from perfect. I love my Catholic Church, and we know full well its shortcomings. If you knew me or my family, you would know my and our mistakes and missteps. I love myself and my family, and am working to make us better. Acknowledging flaws is the healthy prelude to hard work.
George Washington, the heralded founder of our country, spent months with his wife, Martha, hunting down their escaped house servant, Ona Judge. He also had a temper tantrum when British official Sir Guy Carleton refused to return escaped slaves back to Washington and slavery.
Critical race theory or truth? How else do we understand and address our deep racial divide?
The sooner we understand the dynamics of race and racism in our nation’s past, the sooner we can get to work. Ignoring uncomfortable facts is a luxury African-Americans cannot afford.
When I was 1 year old, white neighbors attempting to drive my family out of the neighborhood shot a bullet through my bedroom window. That’s not critical race theory; that is a fact. I remember that not to embark on a journey of revenge, but to work with others to make our nation more welcoming, more just, and more democratic.
There are thousands of instances of racism I have experienced and witnessed — some small, some tragic. Every Black person I know can say the same.
Critical race theory is not an end, but merely a beginning. It is not the goal. The goal is justice and equality.
Daryl Grigsby lives in Nevada City.
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Is that how I wanted to spend my birthday? Yes and no. The original plan was to take a weekend trip to the coast for a few days of relaxation.