Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

The conversation needs to be held. Our United States history is a part of us. None of us were around in 1619. None of us were around in 1860-1865. More than three-fourths of the people living today weren’t around or old enough to have partaken in the 1954-1968 Civil Rights movement.

The conversation needs to happen because a lot of people aren’t educated and so many people are miseducated. This conversation needs to happen, but at the same time action must be taken. First and foremost, we must be able to talk about our history without people judging and hating. Will it be uncomfortable? Absolutely. But so is poverty, discrimination, mass shootings, cop killings, police-involved murders of innocent men and children, mental illnesses, wrongful imprisonments due to racial profiling and lack of adequate military aftercare for our heroes who fight for us.

This is just a short list of the many things that are going wrong in our country.

Another troubling thing is our division, and this is why we are so vulnerable to self-destruction. Our country’s leaders are so openly divided, rhetorically childish and ignorant in the media. If our leaders are acting the way that they do, then how do they expect the citizens to act?

The 2016 election really exposed what has simply been hidden behind laws — fascism, racism, discrimination against integration, women’s rights, LGBTQ — all of these things that people accept but didn’t actually accept. Laws changed, but hearts never changed.

Old systems are still in place, and until new systems are put into place, we will always have hate and division in America. It’s like what the Bible says about putting fresh wine into old wineskins or a piece of new cloth on an old garment. It won’t hold up.

We’ve yet to come together to have a conversation of all perspectives. A Black woman has her perspective, a White woman has her perspective, a White man has his perspective, and the Black man has his perspective. We’re all looking out of our own lenses.

I can speak from the Black man’s perspective because I’m a Black man. My own mother or sister will never know what it’s like to be me. They may have knowledge of what I went through, but they’ll never know what it’s like to be a Black man because they are Black women. Just like I’ll never know what it’s like to be a Black woman in American. Just like we’ll never know what it’s like to be a White woman or White man in America.

I try to imagine what it feels like to be White, and I think that Black people need to take into consideration that our White brothers and sisters who know our history are suffering just as much as we are. It has to be uncomfortable sometimes thinking about our past.

I want to tell all of my White brothers and sisters that there is no reason to feel any type of way about our history. None of you were there.

Our history is as beautiful just as much as it was cruel. If you know our history, you know that the good fought against the evil. Even in Africa when the Africans were selling other Africans, there were Europeans helping African people avoid the slave ship. Even during the many revolutions and wars in our country, all races banded together to triumph over the systems that were in play. Most of those slave revolts were initiated by Black and White women. Quakers and other White families sacrificed careers, homes, property, family, as well as their lives all throughout history to help put an end to the oppression of all people who were oppressed.

Our history in the United States is beautiful because people were struggling, fighting, living for and dying for a cause. They were fighting for the next generation, and they knew that they weren’t going to be alive to see the fruits of their labor. They fought for us.

What happened to that soul of America? Why is everyone running from this conversation? Political parties are selling out the American people for temporary gains, and we are falling for it election after election as if they have a magic wand to fix what only God can fix. Gun control, mental illness, hate, opioid crisis — all of our country’s issues are wrapped up in one conversation.

We have to go back to the root of the cause to see why this country grew away from true leadership that is willing to fight and die for the future of this country and not just merely live for the temporary pleasures.

Until the conversation is held and perspectives are known. Until we all are understood, there will be no justice, peace or unconditional love. There will always be hate and fear. There will be hate because of the miseducation and lack of conversation. Hate because of the loneliness and isolation. Hate because of the many forms of bullying and people turning a blind eye to oppression. There will be fear because everyone fears what they don’t understand.

This is why we need to have this conversation.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Christopher Reece

Christopher Reece is a writer incarcerated in Michigan. He has been in prison since he was 20 years old.