How to train a racist

Off the Beat

“Where do white supremacists come from?”

Where do they come from? They come from our public education system, ya goofball!

Think back to elementary school, before you could even tie your shoes or properly sear a steak au poivre. What can you remember?

You’re wearing that oversized belt around your hat. You’re singing hymns about Christopher Columbus — about how he gave civilization to Native Americans and saved China from a wave of intergalactic aliens or whatever racist thing it was that they taught us back then. But hey, that’s public school!

After we graduate high school and go on to college or to work in the coal mines and/or business factories, we typically can look back at our high school experience and think, “Wow, I can’t believe I wasted 12 years of my life on that.” This is doubly true for people of color.

We spend 12+ years learning about how we owe every modern invention, from the ranked-choice voting system to the panini press, to white people. Then we read a single Wikipedia page and learn that white people are actually just that kid in the group project who doesn’t do any work but demands to be the presenter.

When our history is taught to us as propaganda about how great “our” European ancestors were, how they came up with all these great ideas and innovations on their own, with no help from anybody else, we are taught that American history is really just a continuation of European glory. And it makes us non-Europeans seem like outsiders who have infiltrated the country, merely watching from the sidelines as George Washington and his band of warriors bravely fight off the commies and poor people and democratically elected leaders of foreign countries.

If America were a family portrait hanging in the living room, then American history is all about learning the entire life story of one grandfather — how he came up with calculus while inexplicably discovering linear perspective and also saved a group of savages from themselves — and completely ignoring the other old bags in the picture. Of course you’d grow up thinking that grandfather was some sort of saint. You might even have his family crest tattooed on your chest, if you’re from a family that has a crest, or whatever.

And wouldn’t you also be a lot more forgiving toward him if you later found out that he had been charged with double murder, drunk driving, racketeering, smuggling and loitering (loitering!) when he was a teenager?

The problem with how we teach history — as propaganda, rather than as an honest admittance and reflection of some of our country’s past actions — is that it ceases to be a learning lesson, and it instead becomes an excuse for people in power to keep double murdering people. Yes, every country in the world views its national history through rose-colored lenses, but when America selectively justifies the unsavory portions of European and white history, it once again puts the emphasis on our country being a European extension.

Look at how we teach colonialism in our school. Look at how we are taught for years to justify the death, torture and exploitation of millions of people of color around the world. And maybe there was an “oops” here or there, but overall, those savages should be thanking us!

If people want to keep justifying or denying double murder, that’s one issue. But when their stupidity can impact the rest of us or lead us to World War III, we all have a vested interest in their proper understanding of history. Look at the way we learn about the intentional killings of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as “necessary evils” to end a war, rather than as war crimes. Our history teaches us that we can be careless toward the lives of nonwhites. And now our president is being praised for threatening to nuke a small Asian nation again, because we cannot be honest that our grandpa was a double murderer.

When white supremacists pop up in the news for carrying out terrorist attacks in our country, white people collectively clutch their décolleté and gasp:

“Where do these people come from?”

They come from our public schools. They didn’t come up with these ideas on their own. They were taught it and indoctrinated by a system, and chances are, you were too.

And across the country, millions of kids are being taught it too.

Off the Beat columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the fall semester’s regular opinion columnists have been selected.