My Newfound Appreciation for History

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I wouldn’t go as far in saying that I am uninterested in history or its artifacts. I also couldn’t say that I would jump for glee signing up for a class in American History.

Yes — these facts of a specific time and place are kept for onlookers to absorb, and while I’ve never been good at remembering dates, countless wars and names of prominent people, I don’t outright dislike it.

The hard but sad truth is that minority figures are underrepresented in our society. How can I be taught to care about something if it feels as though none of it is of relation to my life?

The issue is not that I don’t want to learn about the past. It’s that the past is filtered into what’s best for our present day majority. However, identifying, feeling, connecting with it is what’s of the utmost importance.

So, I was more than excited when I heard about the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and after many stumbling blocks along the way, I was able to step my foot inside a place filled with such historical significance.

It’s so much more than race. It’s about cultural connectivity.

There’s a podcast that I listen to on National Public Radio (NPR) named Code Switch, which is made up of journalists of color who seek to unravel many questions and topics surrounding race and identity. Though, this experience made me far more introspective in being there than that podcast has ever done within the few months I’ve gotten into it.

With it being Martin Luther King Jr. Day when I posted this, I wanted to take time to reflect on what I experienced during my time at the museum. I don’t want to give anything away, especially for those who are still trying to figure out how they are going to get a ticket. So, I just want to talk about one thing I experienced that stuck with me.

On the first main level, there is an area where you can sit in a car and choose where you would like to travel. Would you like to go to a rundown gas station that’s overpriced or a newly renovated service station that is reasonably priced? Well, I’m sure your first instinct would be the latter. Though, when you pull into the lot, you’re scrutinized and ordered to hurry up for fear that your colored complexion will upset bystanders.

Experiencing the virtual list of questions, I answered accordingly. Many responses on the journey were similar to the first. At the end of the simulated experience, the Green Book, also known as the Negro Motorist, was spoken of, which was used to help blacks make the best traveling decisions during an era of Jim Crow laws.

I recently wrote an article on how such simple things in life can make a huge impact, and this was that for me. It’s a shame that people had to go through such ridicule and embarrassment for being themselves, and it gave me grand appreciation for the life that I live. These simple daily tasks, like going to fill up at a gas station or eating at a local pub weren’t an easy task for the African American community, and I am forever grateful for the sacrifices those have made before me.

-Jas

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