One reason that Americans tend to think we have an exceptional country is our belief in the rugged individual. We look at other countries and we evaluate them against the standard of this notion of strong individuals. Perhaps, this individualism helps to explain why institutional racism and white supremacy persists.
As we in the majority race can claim that, as individuals, we had nothing to do with the sins of those who went before us and that we don’t see how we benefit individually from the advantages that so many institutions give to members of our race, we can deny the more-than-abundant evidence about the injustices done, or at least, our responsibility to do something about them.
The problem with this line of thinking is that these injustices are done in our name by agents of those we elected and/or employees of those whom we support with our spending. So, we are at least accomplices, if not enablers and participants, in them. This is the real danger in the libertarian or individualist philosophy — that it promotes the notion that people exist without relationships among one another and/or that these relationships do not require costs to sustain.
While it is a truism that “history is written by the victors,” it is also true that the victors do not own history. As more voices emerge from members of groups that have previously been marginalized, we have a duty to ourselves and to these groups to listen and to re-evaluate the truthfulness of the history we have been taught. When we do that, a more balanced and accurate history will emerge.
In America’s case, that does mean a less pleasant story and we are naturally reluctant to accept the gruesome, ugly details.
The thing about history is it does not end. We are part of it. History is actually our story — of how we came to be here now, doing what we do and thinking what we think and feeling what we feel. We can decide what we will add to our story. We can coast along and let injustice continue. Or we can join with those who are working to end injustice. It really all boils down to those two choices.