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Reckoning the Past: A Historical Review of My Education on Racism

Articles Jun 23, 2020

“I’m interested in the way in which the past affects the present and I think that if we understand a good deal more about history, we automatically understand a great deal more about contemporary life.”—Toni Morrison

The recent violence against Black people and the protests have only highlighted the systemic racism that has existed in our country for centuries. As a White woman who majored in English and history in college, I have been reflecting on my own history of learning in this country. What did I read, what did I learn, what experiences did I have that evolved over time and shaped my understanding about racism? By understanding the past, I believe that we can impact the present and change the future. I’m sharing my reflections and commentary because perhaps you are also facing similar reckonings and wondering how we move forward.

  1. Grade School

I grew up in Colorado and was privileged to attend a Catholic grade school. We learned about slavery and the Civil War in social studies class. The Civil War was portrayed as a series of bloody battles. The North was good and victorious, and the South lost and was bad. Abraham Lincoln was a hero for freeing the slaves. In social studies, we also vaguely learned about Jim Crow as “separate but equal”. We celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day—he and Rosa Parks were considered “good” for standing up for civil rights in a peaceful way.


Jamie Ousterout

Jamie (she/her) is a Certified Diversity Executive and vice president of Client Success for The Diversity Movement. She is the main point of contact for clients, helping take action on DEI journeys.