By Jason Fuller:
Howard Zinn’s book, “A Young People’s History of the United States” discusses slavery, indentured servants, and uprisings in the early history of the United States. The aim of European conquest has always been to take from others and then erase the victim’s identity, but why? Chapter two speaks to how Europeans were upset with Native Americans’ rebelliousness and began to import African slaves who were foreign to these lands and who they thought would be more cooperative.
The process of enslaving Africans went from a capitalistic system to a multi-generational, dehumanizing caste-system. Such an oppressive tool was perfected as affluent slave-owning whites purposely gave white servants incentives in order to defuse an uprising of poor whites and enslaved Africans. From this came financial and social dominance, a dominance which has deteriorated as of late. Or has it?
Although we live in a society where the word “diversity” is placed on every billboard in academia and in the professional world, entrance of people of color into these institutions is scarce. This is correlated to our history as oppressed people and our lack of access to power and resources. For an example, I am the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college; moreover, my cousins were also the first of their immediate households. Despite these unfortunate factors, we’ve navigated academia successfully. But internally I ask myself “would my experience in college have been as challenging if my parents, grandparents or great-grandparents graduated from a four-year institution?”
Intellectually speaking, my parents were sharp. They’ve worked within the healthcare profession for over 25 years and are thoroughly familiar with human anatomy. Thus I ponder what barriers deterred them from obtaining a BA, MA or Ph.D.? Well, in order to understand their experience, you must know my grandparents upbringing. On my father’s side, his father, Lucius Fuller made bricks for a living and his wife (my Grandmother) Ethel Fuller was a nurse. Additionally, my father’s family was raised in Alabama and endured Jim Crow and the segregated south until the 1970’s. Unfortunately, I have limited information about my great-grandparents, who were born shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Sharing this history is absolutely imperative because society says that attending college is easy, however they fail to look at the centuries of legalized disenfranchisement. Failing to acknowledge the past leaves assumptions in the minds of many readers that African Americans/Blacks carelessly drop the ball. When in reality, those who lived through oppressive times were traumatized due to their living situations and thus their children were not far removed from this reality.
Reading Howard Zinn’s book was refreshing. I must say that I am accustomed to Blacks serving as the author and guide while reading a book which illustrates the reality of slavery. Then again, I should have expected this knowing how justice-driven my director is. Stay tuned for part 2!