Over the course of history, human records have been analyzed and reanalyzed, sometimes in order to fit the zeitgeist of the era and sometimes simply because it is a normal part of living on Earth. To quote the ever-relevant Mark Twain, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” For this reason, it is only apt that we, as a species, try to understand causes, effects and everything in between in our history.
I have begun to notice, though, that the rate at which we do this “re-envisioning” is rapidly increasing. This can probably be attributed to the breakneck speed at which we all communicate information through far more varied channels. This results in two strikingly different perspectives emerging from opposite ends of a spectrum.
This can be seen in cases of police violence, as viewed by the general public. The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 sparked incredible amounts of community backlash. This reaction was a long time coming, considering the state of race relations in the community in the past.
I noticed many examples of this “negative” revisionism shortly after the shooting of Tony Robinson in Madison, Wis., a few weeks ago. CNN published an article comparing the two incidents (and, quite frankly, I still don’t understand what purpose this serves), which breaks down the differences — no similarities are given subheadings — by theme, if you will. The “gathering” in Madison consisted of “demonstrators,” whereas Ferguson “turned violent” as “people hurled bottles.”
This semantic difference creates a far more negative image of the events in Ferguson than of those in Madison. It is not a fair assessment of the events that unfolded and does not take into account the differences in community relations with local law enforcement.
However, revisionism can have more progressive side effects as well. As a result of these many cases of police violence and the refocus on the young, black, male demographic, there has been a newly created movement to pay attention to the plight of their female counterparts. From Tarika Wilson to Yvette Smith to Rekia Boyd, many of these women’s deaths — among many others — unfortunately remain unrecognized by most. Revisionist thinking has begun to make people more cognizant about everyone being affected.
In my opinion, many people fall prey to political correctness in their attempts to avoid the clutches of revisionism. I have never been much of a “politically correct” person. Maybe I should be. Maybe it’s because I’m from New Jersey. Who really knows? However, especially since coming to Georgetown, I’ve noticed that people are quick to add an asterisk to everything; declarations of thought become nothing more than feeble half-statements, half-questions.
One of my classes is currently discussing Islam and the different forms it takes as outside actors, such as other states, manipulate the religion to meet their own ends. From my professor to my TA to my fellow students, I have seen preempted apologies for what is about to be said on the topic of Islam — before it’s even said! Sometimes, it’s so bad that they’ll spend a majority of their time explaining why they aren’t experts on the topic, right before trying to make a point or two about it nonetheless.
People are afraid to combat the cultural biases that are ingrained deep within our society and our media, so they choose to tiptoe the middle line in order to avoid taking a misstep. What they do not understand is that even if there is one step in the wrong direction, the other does have the opportunity to go in the right one.
Revisionism doesn’t have to take on the all-negative connotation that it currently holds. On the contrary, we ought to recognize the role it plays in our day-to-day lives and act knowingly.
Tithi Patel is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. Under the Veil appears every other Sunday on thehoya.com.