Collective Amnesia is a hard read, not from literary style, for the writing is clear, direct, and often powerful. Rather, it is hard to read emotionally, because it will be hard for most readers to understand how we could have treated our fellow black Americans the way we did. Yes, we all know about slavery, know we ended it with our Civil War, and believe that presently we live in an America where racism, although still rearing its ugly head here and there, is mostly a thing of the past. Well, although that may be the generalized, bottom line most of us have chosen to believe and live with today, Dr. Betit asks us to step back and walk a 400-year journey through black life in America from the first slave brought to this country to the day America elected its first black president… Dr. Betit provides names, places, dates, journal entries, log books, newspaper articles, and photographs.
To really understand our present, I believe we all need to understand our past, especially this part of our nation’s past. Our national Declaration says that all men are created equal with equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Dr. Betit chronicles how that has not been the case for most of our fellow black Americans. Although the words “all men are created equal’ may not have always reflected actuality, they always were and still are aspirational. Yes, equality in America is much better today than it has ever been, but we need to ensure that it keeps getting better. Dr. Betit’s Collective Amnesia shows our past in detail, often in terrible detail; we must emerge from that amnesia and construct a better future.