History is back with a vengeance.
After a decade-long holiday from history, when joblessness fell to record lows and the stock market reached glittering heights, history has struck back.
The pandemic, the joblessness, the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, the profound political polarization — all cannot be fully understood without recognizing their historical roots and historical precedents:
- The global interconnectedness that facilitated transmission of pathogens.
- This nation’s long history of racial inequity; racial disparities in wealth, health care, policing and access to jobs and credit; and antiblack racial violence.
- A financial system that produced levels of inequality as extreme as those of the 1920s and that increasingly leveraged debt, leaving many companies extremely vulnerable to economic downturns.
Too many people think of history simply as a record of past events. But history is equally concerned with processes — demographic, geopolitical, ideological and climatic — that take place over time, often remaining out of sight until they become inescapable and unavoidable.
Much as our students’ grandparents and great-grandparents lived through history — the hardships of the Great Depression and the upheavals of World War II — our students are now living through history. As a result, they are learning history’s most wrenching, painful and sorrowful lesson: that historical processes are remorseless and often harsh and cruel, that these processes often drive politics, and that none of us, no matter how privileged, can escape history.
As our graduates enter an economy hemorrhaging jobs, as many of their parents lose their health and livelihood and deplete their savings, we also have an obligation to teach history’s other story: of persistence, struggle, resilience, of pressing forward in circumstances not of our own making.
Read the rest here.