History is of the past but not necessarily something that should be forgotten, unspoken of or left to wither away. History is the fabric of cultures and societies. It is accessible via story-telling, libraries, movies etc. History shapes the present and the future.
A week ago, together with some other social justice advocates, I was reflecting on the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. I was thinking of ways that Canada could create a more respectful, just and inclusive society for the nation’s Aboriginal population who have long faced marginalization. In accordance with the theme of the conversation, I was asked what I thought reconciliation means with respect to Canada and Aboriginal peoples. So, I said: Reconciliation starts by recognizing the contributions that Aboriginal people have made to Canada and how there has also been a “cultural genocide” on Aboriginal peoples. In Canada, we do not talk about the issues. We talk about Canada being a multicultural and peaceful society but we do not talk about the issues. So, for reconciliation to happen – we must acknowledge the past, learn from it and develop ways to build a better present and future.
That is the summary of my contribution to the question asked. I also did allude to the fact that no matter how filthy the past has been, it has to be acknowledged and learned from not hidden. From articles I have read, conversations I have been engaged in, Aboriginal people in Canada want the racism that they and their ancestors have faced in the past to be recognized and they want a reconciliation. They want a better Canada that will not deny Aboriginal people of their human rights. To reconcile, Canadians have to see the issues in many treatments that were forcefully put upon Aboriginal people. Canadians have to see the issues with the past and realize that some actions of the present are merely but a less severe rendition of that past because Aboriginal people still live in disappointing economic and social conditions here in Canada.
I was born and raised in Nigeria but not until I left the country (for school) and certainly became more mature, did it begin to dawn on me that I did not know a lot about my history. Colonization swept away cultures and I ever since I realized that, I have made a conscious attempt to keep educating myself, to keep seeing value in what the colonizers may have deemed crude, to never cover up my identity, to never let anyone make me feel that my culture does not matter based on his/her ethnocentrism. History is shaping my strength, shaping my resistance and shaping my ability to encourage people from different cultures and nations, that they are good enough and their identity, accent and culture matters. If we dwell on imitation, we lose our identities and it becomes a loss to future generations.
History also gives people the ability to celebrate those who have shaped our present in a positive way – whether they are still living or no longer with us.
History forms from the present and is a vital reference for the future. Make a commitment to never let a part of your history (community, family history etc) die.