While reading Caswell’s piece, what dawned upon me is just how selective history can be and how that selective history is more moreover socially constructed and imposed. I found the segment where she references the funding options that SAADA has to be especially disheartening. The fact that the government is not willing to fund projects, because they are not stories of the majority is a failure. It is due to their lack of support that minority cultures are largely exempt from history textbooks and educational materials. In turn, the absence of minority voices for so long has convinced minority communities that they’re stories are actually unimportant, which is certainly not the case.
Another thing that this piece brought to my mind is all of the things that are omitted from the majority’s history, beyond that of just minority voices. Up until recently, Christopher Columbus was always regarded as the founder of America when: one, there were plenty of other people here before him; two, he wasn’t the first nonindigenous person to discover it either; and three, he was just a generally horrible person all around. And even with that litany of imperfections, I’m sure history books still document him as a great man, which brings me to another point that the article raised for me. In most schools, science is regarded as the ever-changing discipline and therefore must have new books whenever possible, but history is considered constant when, in actuality, new discoveries in history are always being made. When confronted with that reality, the choice that society must consider is how to alter the records of that person, institution, etc. given new findings. Should Andrew Jackson be taken from the twenty-dollar bill? In my opinion, probably. Should he be less incorporated into history books because of his transgressions? In my opinion, probably not. He did awful things but that doesn’t change his importance in American history. He should be presented holistically, though, and not as a crusader of the American way. These issues are playing out on our campus, too. The events with Silent Sam and Saunders Hall have raised issues about revising our view of UNC’s history. But something to consider is whether changing the name of a building or tearing down a monument is going to give voice to minorities’ history, like Caswell would advocate, or are those actions just polishing the image of a pristine, progressive-thinking university in the same way that Columbus was molded into the heroic founder of America?