For most white people slavery is something relegated to the history books. For many black people the legacy and ramifications of slavery are a reality they live with every day.

This land we call the United States of America has had more years of slavery than not. The first slaves came to the United States (though it wasn’t called that at the time) in 1619. It was 246 years later that Congress passed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. It has been 157 years since that amendment passed in 1865.

So, while many of us may think slavery is ancient history, the truth is slavery is what this country is all about.

In fact, the 13th Amendment reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Read that quote again.

Yep, slavery was and is still OK if someone is convicted of a crime. Guess what happened to black people? They were convicted of crimes they never committed. Laws were created to ensure they were arrested, like not being allowed to assemble after dark or walking too close to a white person.

Plantation owners could use these “criminals” to work their crops.

The system has been rigged against black people since the get-go.

I’ve been on a quest to learn more, to understand more, to be less ignorant about the history of this country I call home and how we’ve treated the people in it. It isn’t just black people who have gotten screwed. Anyone who isn’t a white male has been discriminated against in some form.

Clearly, we cannot rely on the education system to teach us all we know. For one, there is just too much to know, too much to be taught. We must keep learning; it can’t stop at the schoolhouse door.

Even so, we must advocate for better curriculum in schools—to not ban books, to not be afraid of learning about people who are not heterosexual white men.

We can be a better country if we want to, but that means being inclusive and not being afraid of one day being the minority and surrendering our white privilege.

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