History is History Part 3!!!

In History is History parts 1 and 2, we looked at history being misused in schools, and in politics. Now, we take on another misuse of history, when people try to argue leveling the playing field for minorities based on some historical inventions/technology they invented in the very distant past. It ties into the point in History is History Part 1 about how curriculum likes to teach that if Europeans invented something, a minority culture invented it first. It always seems to be a big point among academia to emphasize that a culture that is a minority today invented some major breakthrough in technological history in the past. For example, the Europeans discovered gunpowder in the Renaissance, but the Chinese already discovered it in the Middle Ages and even had fireworks. Another example is (a bit more mild) about how a lot of the ancient Greeks and Roman inventions were already invented by peoples like the Mesopotamians and others. Now, there is proof in the historical record that things thought to have been invented at one time were invented earlier in a different society. That’s just fine. However, there seems to be a subtle undertone to it when it’s written about. This undertone seems to be sending the message, “Hey!, minorities invented stuff before Europe ever did, so let’s give them more credit in today’s world!” Basically, the tone of it is trying to send a message to advance minorities today. What is wrong about that is not that we should help minorities, but people are using history to further a contemporary issue. It just doesn’t add up when one does that unless the history directly affects another contemporary event. Saying that “oh, culture X invented something before Europe did” is a weak argument for helping and leveling the playing field for minorities today. The distant past is oftentimes too different to make direct correlations to the present. (Especially medieval China and ancient Mesopotamia for example!) If one really wants to argue for leveling the playing field for minorities, I’d suggest looking at their status in the present day, and the history explaining why they’re minorities in this culture in the first place. Going any deeper history-wise than that starts to get more and more irrelevant.

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About persnicketythecat

I like ancient and medieval history!
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