I visited Washington, DC, in the first week of November to meet up with a few of my close friends. It was my second time visiting my nation’s capital, and it enchants me more with each trip.
While in DC, we spent a day at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I may write individual blogs detailing my experience at each museum another time. But for today’s post, I’d like to share a particular thought which has haunted me since my museum visits.
I entered the doors of the USHMM with a significant collection of Holocaust knowledge in my mind. I first learned of The Shoah when I was ten years old and began reading about it obsessively. My ten-year-old mind just could not fathom how a nation could intentionally seek to eradicate a group of people-elderly and babies, men and women alike. I also was dismayed that nothing was done to stop the slaughter. For three decades, I have lost count of the books I’ve read on this dark chapter of the Jewish experience. I was still taken by the breadth of the permanent exhibit at the USHMM. The three floors cover the wretched years of 1933-1945 in painstaking detail.
Similarly, I had a firm foundation of knowledge about African American history when I went to the NMAAHC in the afternoon. As an African American, I believe that understanding the historical events and currents that forced my ancestors to British North America and knowing the history of my ethnic group is a sacred duty. Since my adolescence, I have treated it as such, devouring information on our journey. Nevertheless, the depth of the knowledge at the NMAAHC struck me. I only made it through the history gallery that focuses on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and chattel slavery in its’ entirety, and it is well-documented and researched.
Visiting the museums left a heavy, palpable cloak of sadness on my being. However, my sadness quickly gave way to anger, frustration, and resignation. I stood in the shadow of two of the most horrific events in mankind’s history, aware of the bitter tears cried by the affected…and aware that there are people who fervently believe neither of these events happened.
The research on The Holocaust is extensive. Despite the testimony of survivors, the scholarship dedicated to The Shoah, and the steep decline of Europe’s Jewish population after 1941, a distressing amount of people insist that millions of Jews were not murdered by the Third Reich!
Likewise, the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the creation of the African Diaspora in the New World are extensively documented. Despite the overwhelming amount of data, there are people in my ethnic group who insist the human trafficking of our ancestors is a lie, a fairy tale created by Europeans to obscure our “true” heritage.
There are mountains of evidence disproving both conspiracy theories. But it is not about data, facts, statistics, and proof for adherents of conspiracy theories. Evidence is irrelevant to the mind of a true believer. This realization makes me simultaneously sad and anxious about our society’s future.