Why I Can’t Just Forget
With each day that passes it seems as though my memory has gotten worse. I don’t think it’s anything serious – more a combination of fatigue, parenthood, and age. There are some things though that are etched in my memory that pop up and replay themselves. As 2019 has begun I’ve heard and seen the encouragement for the new year- Put the past in the past. Start fresh. Let go of all that stuff that happened. It’s a new day. And while it’s true that in order to move forward toward whatever mark there is I may need to leave some things behind, there are some things I can’t and won’t, forget.
I can’t forget when a boy in 6th grade told me that I shouldn’t be in math club because I was a girl. I didn’t listen and it pushed me to compete and take higher level math courses. Whenever I would hear the statistics about girls perceptions about their math ability, I was proud of myself for not letting him stop me from being myself. I can’t just forget.
I can’t forget walking across the lawn of my middle school, dressed in all blue, while two students yelled, ‘Free Willy’ at me because I was obese. I remember being crushed on the inside and crying on the bus. But on the days that I’m feeling down about my size, I remember that and that it didn’t change who I was and that even whales are considered beautiful creatures – and Willy got freed. I can’t just forget.
I can’t forget writing to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about my frustration with the lack of teaching of black history. How we talked about Anne Frank and visited The Holocaust Museum but spent very little time discussing people who looked like me. I remember the looks from my teachers and the passive way they dismissed me. I also remember when an African artist did a special exhibition at my school because of that letter. I can’t just forget.
As the current events of our country unfold, it seems though that a lot of people have chosen to forget. They’ve put aside the fact that this country didn’t even belong to the people who came across the ocean and stole it. They’ve put away the fact that immigrants have been coming to this country for decades in search of a better life and that the process wasn’t, and still isn’t, easy or fast. They’ve put away the fact that black people and other people of color built this country, not by choice, but by brutal force and that it’s only been in the last fifty years that we’ve had any semblance of equality. They’ve put away the fact that the first black president was called all kinds of racial slurs and hung in effigy on numerous occasions. They’ve even forgotten that the current president took out a full page ad in the New York Times calling for The Central Park 5 to be given the death penalty for a crime it’s been proven they didn’t commit – and has never offered an apology.
I think it’s easy to put the past in the past when it hasn’t affected you to your core. It’s easy to move on and let bygones be bygones when your past wasn’t filled with hurt, pain, and inequality. But for many of us, we can’t just forget. And I would venture to say that if we’re not careful, forgetting will get us back to those dark times.
Until next time…