The politics of racial cleansing and the erasure of history

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The tragic deaths of 215 Indigenous children not only reveal the horrors of Canadian colonialism at the heart of the country’s politics, but it also exposes how a politics of systemic and throwaway racism is reproduced through the erasure of history. As acts of genocide against Indigenous peoples once again make the crimes of racist state violence visible, it is crucial that Canadians recognize how history can be erased by examining not only their own past, but also how one. A policy of racial cleansing through an attack on history teaching is at work in the United States.

The genocide inflicted on Native Americans and black slaves, the horrors of Jim Crow, the incarceration of Japanese Americans, among other historical events disappear in a disavowal of past historical events with the emergence of right-wing policies, embracing a language censorship and erasure policy and education. At work here are attempts to eliminate from public and higher education all traces of racism committed as part of its long history of violence against those considered unknowable and disposable. These efforts are not about educational reform but about institutionalizing sectarianism in schools.

For example, the Republican Party’s attack on the teaching of critical race theory in schools, which they call “ideological or fashionable”, negates both the history of racism as well as the ways in which persistent racism is applied systemically through policies, laws, and institutions. The ban on teaching about racism is now justified by the ludicrous claim to protect students from the various ways in which racism persists in American society – a story dubbed as unpatriotic.

This whitewashing of history is now widely reproduced by right-wing attacks on diversity, critical race agendas in the public and higher education. The struggle to censor truthful versions of a racist-shaped history is part of a larger conservative project to stop teachers and students from speaking openly about historical issues that legitimized race-based practices. It is also an attempt to erase the struggles of those who resisted and risked their lives in the fight against racism. What is shared by all of these attempts to censor school curricula is the claim that critical race theory and other “anti-racist” programs indoctrinate students and undermine the supposed foundations of Western civilization – a an argument that has always been at the heart of a ruthless ideology of colonialism.

In such circumstances, education becomes an object of oppression and a means of downgrading teachers who address issues of racial inequality and injustice. Right-wing politicians are now using education to discredit any critical educational approach that enables students to realize themselves as critical citizens. In so doing, they undermine and discredit the critical faculties that students and others need to “investigate the central conflict between a nation founded on radical notions of liberty, liberty and equality, and a nation founded on slavery. , exploitation and exclusion ”.

Current attacks on critical race theory, if not critical thinking itself, are part of a larger authoritarian attempt to normalize racism, class inequalities and economic inequalities while safeguarding the interests of those who benefit. of these inequalities. In pursuit of such a project, Republican Party politicians are pushing for programs in some 47 states that teach complacency, obedience, and mindless compliance. They undermine issues of injustice and the common good in school curricula and rarely embrace pedagogical notions that sharpen a student’s civic skills, sense of justice, and openness to empathy. They buy into former President Donald Trump’s claim that teaching racism is like “teaching people to hate our country.”

In light of this attack on empowering forms of education, there is a need to rethink and relearn the lessons of history considering the role it can play in educating students and others about the values ​​of inclusion, compassion and democracy. It underscores the challenge of questioning history while addressing the repressive elements of its past. At the heart of this task is the recognition that a democracy cannot exist without informed citizens.

Given the increasing visibility of its colonial past and the violence directed against the most vulnerable of these populations considered disposable, Indigenous children, Canada must reject attacks on historical memory in order to avoid what is happening to states. -United. It must invest in an education system that strengthens its support for racial justice and civic culture. For democracy to “breathe again” in Canada, history must be an object of critical inquiry rather than an act of blind reverence.

Henry A. Giroux is the McMaster University Chair in Public Service Fellowships. His latest book is “Race, Politics, and Pandemic Pedagogy: Education in a Time of Crisis” (Bloomsbury 2021).



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