Hedreich Nichols

To Tell the Old Old Story

Small Bites Friday Five 10-02-20:

20-30m – Watch this Facebook live video of Brené Brown talking about the importance of owning our stories so that we can write our own endings.

15-20m – Enrich your students’ learning with resources from Voices of a People’s History that include videos, lesson plans and a full teacher’s curriculum guide.

10-15m – Consider that the story of the US started in 1607 when the English claimed Jamestown, chasing Powhatan and his people from their own land and eventually decimating the population of 60+ million Americans already living in the area. While you’re at it, help me find good primary resources.

5-10m – Listen to this podcast on voter suppression tactics the FBI is currently warning about.

0-5m – Read this Time Magazine article about the denouncing of the 1619 curriculum and the push for patriotic education. As Joanne Freeman says, studying all perspectives is only dangerous if you have something to hide.

Every day this week there was something to tell. The FBI issuing warnings about voter suppression in the upcoming elections. Moves by state governments that make it harder to vote, especially for those who rely on public transportation or have time constraints. Embarrassment on the world stage about a presidential debacle masquerading as a presidential debate. The president flouting CDC guidelines, mocking mask wearers and landing in the hospital with COVID.

This week has played out like a stroll through the house of horrors with specters jumping out at us at every turn. Unfortunately these specters are no friendly ghosts, they are our reality. They distract and detract as we follow the news cycle rabbit hole. As we follow the newest stories, we neglect the old ones.

How good are we at owning our stories? Our personal failures? A conversation with a dear friend from New Orleans reminded me that we are often afraid to be who we were yesterday. Yes, so what if you or the people who raised you regularly referred to some folks as niggers? So what if you still have a big stars and bars flag in your garage that you can’t part with because it used to be on your granddaddy’s truck when y’all went muddin’?

Really, so what? Are you here reading this? If so, you probably think differently now than you did then. You probably feel a tinge of guilt about that flag and you may want to divorce yourself from anything that reminds you of the way you used to think or talk about others. Don’t do either.

Own your story. All of it.

The collective lack of owning our story in the US has led to loss of life, wealth and wellbeing, dividing and decimating communities since our inception. The lack of owning the story of COVID in this country is doing the same.

Owning our story does not show weakness, it shows strength. Controlling the narrative–not propagandizing it, but owning and controlling the whole of our story–allows us to sweep down the cobwebs, banish specters and move forward. As Brene Brown puts it, we can write our own ending.

As you chew on the stories of this week and wait anxiously on what could possibly come next, think about your stories. Think about our collective stories. Release guilt and shame and come to terms with the good, the bad, the ugly. Teach your students to do the same.

Learning the many stories that make up our history may at times be hard to hear, but the truth is certainly preferable to the weight of this constant, destructive delusion. Even children should be taught to love in spite of, not just because of.

Don’t be dissuaded from knowing the whole of our country’s story. Read about 1607, 1619 as well as 1492 and 1776. And while you’re at it, reflect on your own story and let go of any guilt or shame you may be carrying. While you may not want to hang Pawpaw’s flag up in the window, keep the good memories of the man who took you muddin’. Noone should be reduced to the worst of what they were; not him, not you, not our country.

What matters is that we decide to be better. Today.