“...We are talking again about ‘why study history?’ ...So a lot of people think history is just a study of dates you see..and reading information about things that happened in the past . That is certainly not the case. History in the human mind is always present. The past is always present. Things that happened to you at one year old, at two year old, when you were three years old are operating in your right at this moment. And the way you react to other people, the kind of tastes you have, the desires you have, the kind of love relations you seek and all of those kinds of things, are to a great extent determined by your experience before you were three or four years old. In other words, that experience, those experiences between birth – an actually in the womb itself – but between birth and two or three or four years old operate right now to colour your perception of other people, of yourself; to determine to a good degree the nature of your interaction with other people. In other words then, the past is not something that’s dead and gone, and dropped off in your mind, it operates right here at this very moment, this very second; and it will operate until the day you die. (It means) the same thing occurs in the history of a race. If you look at the history of a race the way you look at an individual, those experiences that happened to us two and three hundred years ago are not dead and gone by a long shot. The ways we relate to other people many of our political goals today, many of our social goals right now, many of the things that we desire to achieve as a people, come from our experience during slavery. Many of us are sitting here right now wanting to assimilate with white folk ...wanting to be what?...many of us are struggling with feelings of inferiority and all those kinds of things. Where did you think that started? You think it started here today? It started as soon as we hit the shores of this country. And so the experience of ourselves as a group is alive in us. Where else can history be alive but in the minds of people? If people were not in existence, what would be the point? We wouldn’t even have to be discussing history. Another indication of the importance of history of course is the fact that those who rule over us and those who dominate us have worked very hard at distorting our history; and at hiding our history from us; and at falsifying our history. So if history was not that important to everyday life, to real life and to concrete activities, why then has this nation and the people who rule it work so hard to destroy African history; Why are they resisting the inclusion of African history and African culture in the educational structure; If they think that inclusion is purely harmless from their point of view. You see? In other words then, we need to gain a new appreciation of history and need to recognize that history is always present and that to a great extent if we are to change our present behaviour, that if we are to change the future then we must change the past and change our relationship to it. And therefore the falsification and mislabelling of black consciousness deals with why we should study history; it deals with history as mythology. And you can recognize in your everyday behaviour: If you’ve been given the wrong history about a person how that can change your behaviour toward that person. What if people have the wrong history about you; They’ve been given the wrong information about you...If you act with other people based on their history of the other person, you see ...if people want to change the nature of people’s relationship they will often the falsify the history of one or both of those persons, knowing that one or both of those persons are going to interact with each other differently depending on their history or that sense of the history of the individual. This goes on with groups ladies and gentlemen. That’s why those in power then rewrite history. Because in rewriting history they rewrite the person’s perception of himself whose history they’ve rewritten. They also then change that person’s behaviour and relationships with other people given the history that they’ve come to believe; and they also change the way that other people interact with those people, you see, based on the history that they’ve learned about the people. You see, that’s why any group has to take command of its history ( ) to make sure that it projects the kind of history that operates in its best interest; it cannot let another people write its history and let another people determine the nature of its history. And it must also know the history of other people as well if it is to maintain self control and self determination.
But history is not a mere remembrance of experience. Everything we’ve learned we’ve learned in the past. You’ve learned to talk, you’ve learned to walk ....you’ve learned it when? Not today. You’ve learned it years ago. So if you in a purely theoretical sense forgot all of your history, all of your experience, you would return then to foetal state of existence; to a state of immaturity; you would be reduced in your capacity to deal with current and present realities. Many of the coping techniques and things that you have learned in your past would not be useful to you because you would not have them at hand. The same thing is true then in the life of a people; we learned a lot of things as African people; we learned to cope with a lot of things; we learned a lot of methods and techniques for solving problems. The forgetting of African history, the not knowing of African history then, breeds in us a certain levels of immaturity and incapacities to deal with problems which confront us today.
So you see history is not just a game of remembrance. History is an instrument of power. And when you let another people (as I said earlier) falsify your history, they then will destroy your power and your potential as a people and your capacity to solve your problems as a people. So we’re going to be talking about this. We’re gonna talk about how European history’s mythology organized our mentality today as African people and how we have to see European history as a mythology and get a more correct and realistic knowledge of European history as a way of getting a more correct and realistic knowledge of ourselves and as a way of getting in control of ourselves. We are also going to talk about in that book a psychology. Why are we labelled as maladjusted and so forth? and why do we allow another people to place labels on us? Why do we let another people call our children learning disabled? Why have not we examined those definitions?
To a very great extent, the destruction of our children is taking place because we have accepted without opposition or critical analysis the definition of other people of their behaviour; A people who have falsified our history do not know the psychology of our children nor of us but yet who are arrogant enough to feel that they can label our behaviour and then impose programmes on them. You must understand, you see, the labelling of behaviour is not a mere designation of certain forms of behaviour but is a form of domination. So when you are permitted to label other people, you are also authorizing certain types of behaviour toward those people; you are authorizing the withdrawal of certain rights; you are authorizing restraints and constraints on their behaviour; you are authorizing, you see, the taking away of privileges and authorizing the imposition of all of kinds of punitive and other so called measures. So labelling children and labelling people’s behaviour is not something that should be taken easily; something that should be looked upon as truly the work of experts. As a people then we must regain the capacity to label our own behaviour and to deal with that behaviour within our own context .
Transcribed from lecture “History as an instrument of Power”. Taken from http://rbgnation.ning.com/