We have been privileged to have access to share and consume information at the touch of a few clicks. The Internet, like all things, is both a blessing and a curse; providing us with a collective space to give each other an idea about what makes our friends angry, sad, happy or mad. With this responsibility, we are each contributing to the historical documentation of humankind and have a more accessible reach to our past. To fully understand the experience of any animal, including human beings, it is necessary to study patterns; that is why the Internet has become such an important part of our daily interactions.
We each have been provided with a platform that confronts a select group of people, maybe millions. It is the power to instigate an idea, kickstarting it towards others. Considering that we are writing our own history everyday through the use of our social media accounts, it is best we maintain up-to-date with our past so that we’d be better aware of how we are contributing to the future. This includes accepting the good with the bad. Here are five books to start off with:
In Nell Irvin Painter‘s latest text, The History of White People, she attempts to locate when, why, where and how human beings started to differentiate each other by the color of skin. Although a loaded topic that can easily be 1000x pages, she condenses it all into about 700, choosing to emphasize on our more recent past in an attempt to locate the answer for the problems of racism today.
While Painter travels through time to figure out why the color of skin matters, she highlights the “scholars” who utilized the physical feature to deem some people more superior. In her research, which is well versed, it provides a necessary reminder that those who claim to be scholars do not know everything, one must venture out themselves to ask questions and discover answers; and, most importantly, human beings should not be judged by the color of their skin but, instead, by the content of their character.
King Leopold’s Soliloquy by Mark Twain is a short 95-page pamphlet that needs only one day of your attention. Twain translates King Leopold’s letters in a tone that will have you shaking your head. You’ll join the harsh, blunt and forceful journey in which Leopold conquered the African Congo.
Getting lost in the narrative will be easy because Twain creates a space that feels absurd, reflecting a time in which monsters weren’t held accountable for their actions. Confusion and anger will be a common sentiment but the story is relevant because we are provided with a small look into the mind of a person who found justifications for the countless mistreatment for others. Normally, similar stories are told through the eyes of the slave and/or an outside observer. Rarely do we hear the prayers of the slave owner who has convinced himself that his fortune is valid because God himself has not taken it away.
Although fiction, Edwidge Danticat utilizes the main character, Amabelle, in The Farming of Bones to tell a story of suffering in Haiti during the time in which dictator Raphael Trujillo was attempting to rid the Dominican Republic of its neighbors. During her time of writing, she traveled to the border that separated the two countries, wanting to stand between the river where much blood flowed. Her use of fiction allowed her the freedom to create a first-hand dialogue that was inspired by real events.
The story of Amabelle does not have a happy ending and it is a straight forward voice that proves that sometimes your enemy will look just like you.
Although it might not appear to be a work of history, Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power is filled with evidence on how kingdoms and people throughout history obtained, kept and/or lost their power. Greene’s voice is unapologetic as he utilizes real moments in time to remove layers between what works and what has potential to crumble.
It will provide you with a 6th sense, one that will assist you to consume the world around you a little differently with every moment feeling like a heightened opportunity to rise.
The unraveling of modern day Puerto Rican has been kept in the shadow of its owner, the United States, for decades. Often the history of the small island sits in the corner of the room, making little to no noise and accepting the conditions it was given. Until recently, of course, when Puerto Rico was indebted with a bill of over $70 billion. People started to take notice and because the island is a massive tourist attraction, everyone was scratching their heads trying to figure out how such a rich spot in the Caribbean could go so broke.
Nelson A. Denis, of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent, tasked himself with the obligation to bring the heartbreaking and ugly history of Puerto Rico to the forefront. In War Against All Puerto Ricans we are equipped with the appropriate tools in understanding how modern day plantations function and how, despite it being 2016, it is actually possible for such a toxic environment to exist directly under our noses. ♦