Collective Amnesia is a hard read. Not hard to read from a literary style, for the writing is clear, direct, and often powerful. Rather, it is hard to read emotionally, because it will be hard for most readers to understand how we could have treated our fellow black Americans the way we did. Yes, we all know about slavery, know we ended it with our Civil War, and believe that presently we live in an America where racism, although still rearing its ugly head here and there, is mostly a thing of the past. Well, although that may be the generalized, bottomline most of us have chosen to believe and live with today, Dr. Betit asks us to step back from that bottomline and walk a 400-year journey through black life in America from the first slave brought to this country to the day America elected its first black president. The realities of black life in America that he presents in that 400-year journey will be hard for many readers to accept, but they are what happened. Dr. Betit provides names, places, dates, journal entries, log books, newspaper articles, and photographs. To really understand our present, I believe we all need to understand our past, especially this part of our nation's past. Our national Declaration says that all men are created equal with equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Dr. Betit chronicles how that has not been the case for most of our fellow black Americans. Although the words "all men are created equal' may not have always reflected actuality, they always were and still are aspirational. Yes, equality in America is much better today than it has ever been, but we need to ensure that it keeps getting better. Dr. Betit's Collective Amnesia can show us our past in detail, often in terrible detail; we must emerge from that amnesia and construct a better future.
Arriving during a time of increased bigotry and willful obliviousness, Collective Amnesia American Apartheid, African Americans’ 400 Years in North America, 1619—2019 is a must read for Americans who are ready to understand our racial birth defect and its tragic legacy and ready to help move on to a better future. It’s not a polemic. It’s not a harangue. It’s a factual account of two peoples, whites and blacks, and the flawed civilization we share. It is an unblinkered account of race in America, the details of which tell the story of terrorism supported by church and state. Readers have to be ready to undo myths concerning the happy slave in the Antebellum South, racial superiority, imagined causes of the Civil War, and much more. Readers will read stories of families that were reunited after the War and families that were not. They will read a different account of Reconstruction than the stories they may have heard as children. And they will see that racism continues to cast a dark shadow, and not just in the South. No American can be fully American without completely understanding this history, a history clearly laid out by Dr. Bétit.
An accomplished American historian explores the roots and effects of the mistreatment of African Americans in the United States… With the precise eye of the historian and the captivating tone of the storyteller, Bétit details the persistent efforts of black Americans to forge their place in American society, often at risk of violence and death and always facing aggressive opposition… Bétit’s narrative is dense, exhaustive, and well-researched. Perhaps the most forceful chapter is the last one, “Conclusions: Whither America?,” which recaps the chronology of racism against black Americans, points out the dangers of rising white supremacist groups, and poses important questions about what actions may be taken to heal the legacy of slavery and segregation…A scholarly and grippingly readable historical narrative of race relations in America.
This book provides a thorough, four hundred year history of the abuse and disenfranchisement of the black people of America, often while they were simultaneously encouraged to fight for "their" country. The breadth of the work makes it an outstanding choice for both the newly curious and the established scholar. It is designed to force you to look at the big picture, the cause and effect relationships between people of different races. I found it to be particularly relevant as I read the last few chapters, which show that the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (2016) plainly states that racial bias and discrimination are still constant factors in America today. This book would make an excellent textbook for any high school or college classroom as well as a general overview for anyone. I'm glad I read it. The author clearly did extensive research, and unearthed documents, studies and papers of which I was not aware and that I found quite helpful. The collective apathy our nation has shown to the plight of it's minority citizens may someday cease, and this book, and books like it, could be part of the reason that it does. Let us hope.