Twisted Truths

M.C. Escher image, untitled

Twisted Truths

I just learned about a bill that will allow Florida schools to restrict how faculty teach American history in primary and secondary schools.

The news report notes Governor Ron DeSantis says “woke ideology is an attempt to really delegitimize our history and our institutions.”

What is “woke ideology” and what does he mean by “our history?”

I checked a few websites where DeSantis refers to “woke.”

Being “woke” is “dangerous” and needs to be “defeat[ed] on all fronts,” DeSantis says, as quoted in Mother Jones.

The danger, the governor claims, is that wokeness “delegitimize[s] the founding of this country, the principles that the founders relied on, our institutions, our Constitution, to tear basically at the fabric of our society.”

If being woke means being aware, then teachers should be encouraged and rewarded for scrutinizing how histories are interpreted

Seems that “woke” means to denounce generally, and specifically, shows a willingness to re-frame what the founding principles mean.

Framing the argument of “woke” as a way to restrict what we teach in schools is a feeble rhetorical move on the part of the governor.

The governor has seized the word “woke” from progressives to suit his own agenda.

Woke emerged from Black American lexicon in the 1960s to mean “self-aware,” according to the media platform Mashable.

Today the term means “aware.”

Re-imagining “woke” as a clarion call for doddering politicos in Florida reveals two things: a ham-fisted ploy to co-opt the rational class’ verbiage while attempting to confuse viewers and voters.

If being woke means being aware, then teachers should be encouraged and rewarded for scrutinizing how histories are interpreted.

You cannot delegitimize history but you can twist truth to meet your needs.

Historians—competent ones—discern histories through the lens of context and try to leave their biases at the door.

Politicians—incompetent ones—harness their ideologies to histories that never took place and allow their biases to shape their truths.

As for “our” history, DeSantis’ forebears on both sides of his family emigrated from Italy, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The governor has seized the word “woke” from progressives to suit his own agenda

The Tampa Bay Times says DeSantis’ great-great grandmother arrived at Ellis Island shortly after Congress passed The Immigration Act of 1917.

“Among other restrictions on ‘undesirable’ immigrants, it barred illiterate people from entering the United States,” says the newspaper.

DeSantis’ relative could neither read nor write, and despite the newly passed law, America embraced her.

Today in Florida, her great-great grandson chucked the welcome mat, taking a radical position on immigration by blocking “illegal aliens” from entering Florida, reports the Miami Herald.

So: considering DeSantis’ history, what is “our” history?

For DeSantis, the narrative is clear: all his ancestors emigrated to America.

In turn, he slammed the gate on “aliens.”

“Our” histories are not the same.

During winter 1917, DeSantis’ great-great-grandmother sailed for weeks and weeks before arriving in New York.

That same winter, my great-grandmother—Eva Agnes Herridge Grove—gave birth to her fifth child: Bill Junior.

While Agnes and William Grove were raising their children in Osage territory, The United States attempted to divvy-up Native American lands and sell the remaining territory to folks who settled North America from places like Italy.

As members of the Osage Nation, Agnes and her children were entitled to parcels portioned off by the Federal Government.

Any Osages who weren’t counted on the rolls lost their land to the US government, which auctioned off Indian properties.

All told, some 90 million acres of land were stolen from Native Americans during the four decades of the Dawes Act.

That’s about the size of Italy—with the island of Corsica thrown in for good measure.

Being “woke” means being aware of the truths of history as well as the twisted narratives that—in DeSantis’ words—“tear at the fabric of society.”

Those who truly “tear at the fabric of society” pass laws that restrict citizens from voting, judge individuals based on which bathroom they choose, dodge paying their taxes, and use guns, knives and bludgeons to strip Congress of its power.

Yes: it boils down to the job of teachers.

Our duty requires us to be “woke.” ###

11 March 2022







About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in nativescience and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Twisted Truths

  1. Conrad Ramirez says:

    Once again thank you for your facts,especially relating to American history.


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