Past lives and present lies: Why the study of history is so important…


It is not uncommon for students to ask: “Why are we studying about things that already happen; about people who are dead?” My answer was always: “Because we cannot fully and clearly understand the present, or minimize our mistakes in the future, unless we study the events and people of the past… The past-present-future are incapable of being separated!” And then I would go on to explain how without historical knowledge we cannot comprehend the present state of affairs in the Middle East, Africa. Asia, Europe, South or Central America, the Caribbean, or bringing it closer to home, the presence and state of Black America in the present US.

Now I love STEM, but one can never undervalue the critical need to study and know history. And for some of us who are old enough; our memories are our own personal history books. For we can hear the same dismissive arguments used against the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, word for word, that were used by those who condemned the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) protest of an earlier era: “disrupting business”, “interrupting the holiday celebration”, “inconveniencing ordinary people”. And yet for a lot of people in this nation, their daily lives are disrupted, permanently interrupted, inconvenienced beyond repair by physical, educational or economic violence against their humanity and personhood. When your life is painfully abnormal, why then should life just go on as “normal”?

CNN’s Sunny Hostin beautifully and historically links the CRM and the BLM here: