I grew up in North Carolina knowing virtually nothing about Native American history except that the first English settlers disappeared (i.e. The Lost Colony) and they most likely connected with a tribe of natives along the coast of North Carolina or died of a virulent disease. I’ve learned in only the past several years that White People reportedly gave small pox infected blankets to Native Americans in the 1700s causing widespread epidemics. One of the surest stories is that Lord Jeffrey Amherst (for whom Amherst College is named) promoted the idea. He personally mentioned what a great idea it was in a letter to British Captain Simeon Ecuyer.
I grew up “knowing” that General Robert E. Lee was an honorable man who hated slavery and loved the Commonwealth of Virginia more than he loved his country. The truth – according to this firsthand account by an enslaved person named Wesley Norris – is that he was a particularly brutal slaveholder. Turns out he was not the benevolent plantation owner many have called him, although his portrait still hangs proudly in many White fraternities throughout the South.
I grew up admiring Josephus Daniels, the longtime publisher and editor of the Raleigh News and Observer and the namesake of The Student Stores building on my college campus. I bought my textbooks in the Daniels Building. He was considered an honorable man, a teetotaler who forbid work on the Sabbath. (What a good Christian.) The truth, though, also includes the fact that he was a White Supremacist who helped lead the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 which resulted in a bloody attack on Black residents and Black-owned businesses. Just yesterday, the UNC Board of Trustees voted to remove the name of Josephus Daniels and three other White Supremacists from campus buildings. This was the right decision.
I share these stories not because I hate my country or my Southern heritage. I love my country and my Southern roots, and because I love my country and my roots, I want us to be better. I want us to do better.
The more we know, the better the world can be. (Note: My grandmother used to say, “It’s amazing what the LORD has let us learn.” I agree. God makes learning possible.)
There are Church People who “know” that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. (Not true.) There are people who believe that there was a literal “Good Samaritan” and a literally “Prodigal Son” even though the Bible clearly says that Jesus was telling parables (not sharing a news report.) Jesus told parables to jolt us into understanding the depth and breadth of God’s love for us and God’s expectations of us. Rabbis tend to answer questions with stories and with more questions. Jesus was a rabbi.
Someone told me recently that Tucker Carlson had been doxxed by a New York Times reporter and that his family was forced to move because of the protesters who showed up at his house. Actually, the opposite is true. Mr. Carlson’s address was not shared but the reporter’s address was leaked and protesters showed up at his house.
We need to do our research.
I learned in seminary to dig deep and seek out original sources like Josephus and Tacitus. I learned in college to seek scholarly articles and to find multiple sources for my “facts.” There is indeed a lot of fake news out there. And there is misinformation about what’s in the Bible as well.
We can do better because we love God and we love our country and we love our heritage. AND we have quite of bit of corporate confession and reparations to make. The Bible calls it repentance.
The more we know, the more we realize that we have work to do to make things right, in the name of Jesus.