Zinn (1980) opens up his book by describing a historic moment in American history that we all have been taught in our History classes since elementary school: when Christopher Columbus discovers North America. Although, Zinn (1980) introduces further details about Christopher Columbus’ discovery of North America that astonished many individuals, namely me, as most American history books do not characterize Columbus in the negative light Zinn does. He then goes on to insist that historians and members of society, in general, must stop being complicit in accepting immoral moments in history at face value for some other ideological interest that connects everyone, such as progress (Zinn, 1980). This is especially true if we ever want to escape this cycle of repeating what has already happened in the past. As many people would say, different level, same devil.
Moreover, Zinn (1980) writes, “We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion…is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly” (p. 9). Here, Zinn (1980) suggests that every time we hear about a horrible event in history, we instantaneously dedicate a finite amount of attention and compassion towards the victims impacted by those tragic moments in history and continue on with our lives without giving anything a second thought. When we do this, we subconsciously lower ourselves to accepting the executioners in history viewpoint Zinn (1980) details throughout this chapter instead of allying ourselves with the victims’ point of view that can motivate us to address the infirmities of our past to create a better present that will inevitably influence our future (p. 10). A modern-day example of this subconscious process is the negative relationship black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) students have at predominantly white institutions (PWI), such as Richmond.
Even though countless BIPOC voice their frustrations and share their opinions on what needs to systematically change at their PWIs- for instance, taking more severe action against students, even if they are white, who discriminate, harass, and assault BIPOC- it utterly feels like their- our- voices and freedoms are being silenced, restricted, monitored and, in some cases, “handled”, just like the Arawaks of the Bahamas, just like the Aztecs of Mexico, just like the Incas of Peru, and just like the Powhatans and Pequots of Virginia and Massachusetts. So, I wonder if it is possible for our world to ever return to its idyllic form Zinn (1980) mentions when communities were not tainted with the egocentric values and ideals that guided Western civilizations in the 15th Century but were adorned with egalitarian principles and practices that brought the fantasy of a utopia to life.