Host: What, in your opinion, are some ways that we can keep students interested in this country’s history?
Jesse Williams: First off, probably by teaching it. We don’t teach history in this country, at all. We don’t teach global history. We teach a little bit of Anglo-American history. We teach who the heroes are, we teach the bullet points. I think to speak on kind of a thread that we’ve had going in terms of African American involvement, here, and just in general, we spend the first twelve years of our school life, particularly in inner-city, low income communities and school systems learning nothing about ourselves and if you’re lucky enough to go to college or something, then maybe you’ll take some cute African-American studies classes in college or something.
It is an incredibly competitive world, it is hard for people to figure out what they wanna do in their life, and what they’re interested in and where they stand. Are they a global citizen? Have they contributed to this planet? Have they contributed to their country? And you can’t know that without knowing where you came from, and it’s very difficult as a student in school, a student of color to deal with that dichotomy; trying to juxtapose white heroes who have their boot on your neck. That is something to balance, and we can hide from it and only teach one half of it, that is a disservice to everybody that’s involved.
So once we start teaching the truth, and what actually happened, and let us just decide how we feel about it, instead of forcing it down people’s throat as to who’s heroes and who’s not, that’s not really relevant. What happened happened, let’s learn about it and that’s what made this country what it is.
So, as somebody who was the product of a pretty crappy school system myself for a portion of my life, and really enjoys being in the classroom, and who was a teacher; there’s nothing more important, I think, than education, and particularly for people of color in this country, learning their actual history and the contributions they’ve made to all of this society. And not just physical labor, cause that’s not even an eighth of it, and that goes beyond this country, but also Africa and the rest of the world.
So I think this an important stepping stone, to get people involved; to see that you can express yourself, you can put yourself at risk, you can expose yourself, you can feel vulnerable, you can feel guilty, you can feel embarrassed, you can feel furious. And you’re entitled to all of those things. So hopefully we can contribute to that in some form.