by Elouise

without a trace
comes home to haunt us

lives and bodies broken
past yet present

roots of our
current discontent

We don’t have to accept this state of denial. It leaves traces that scream to be heard. We are a multicultural nation.

We don’t all agree that this is a proud heritage. Nonetheless, not once in my upbringing or schooling did anyone introduce me to the full history of multicultural America, the so-called United States. We seemed content with stylized stories that perhaps told part, but not nearly enough of the truth.

The seminary in which I taught and served as dean had a proudly diverse student body, faculty and staff. Yet every time there was a national racial incident (Rodney King, for example), I was reminded of how much I didn’t know or understand.

During my last year at the seminary, I was part of a small faculty group that piloted a way to work together on issues of race and multicultural differences. We took up-front time coming to agreement about how to be safe within our diverse group. Then we got to work, doing with each other the personal and group work that might be done across our campus and institutional structures.

One of the most riveting books we read was A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. It’s now out in an expanded, updated edition. The author Ronald Takaki, was born and raised in the USA. His ancestors came from Japan, and he looks Japanese. And yet…he was still considered an outsider.

Takaki’s well-documented book begins with American Indians, before the so-called discovery of this country. From there, he traces the chronological history of multicultural America to the present.

This is the American History I was never taught in school. Takaki packs it with data, stories, photos, archived news articles, and astute insights into why we are diverse, and how each group was received into these United States. He also has a vision for what we might learn from this history about our future as a thriving multicultural nation.

We’ve forgotten our roots. We’ve suppressed them and found ways to cope with or rewrite the truth about our past. We’ve done this in public and private, newscasts, corporations, universities, neighborhoods, families, churches and communities of faith, and in our educational system—to name a few. Textbook wars are still fought to keep certain voices from seeing the light of day.

Sadly, this approach suppresses the truth about brave women, men and children who found and still find ways to work together against our national habit of creating insiders and outsiders.

What kind of future do we want for our country? What would it take to get from here to there?

For starters, you might read this book. You might find yourself in it. Or, if you’d like a shorter, equally riveting edition, there’s an edition for young people. Same title, with well-documented stories and photos. Both books are difficult to put down.

Add it to your reading list!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 May 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Trace