The history of the U.S. is incomprehensible without understanding that our society/culture was (and remains so) thoroughly influenced and structured by slavery/race/racism. It's like Dr. john powell says: "you can't understand this country without understanding the institution of slavery."
Most of us people who are raced as white (indeed, all Americans) have (and continue to be) carefully and persistently taught (by the media and public institutions) to be oblivious to and/or dismissive of this deplorable and terrible truth. (In part, that's how the systems of oppression keep on keeping on, your ignorance (and mine) is vital to this continuation of awful.)
We are well “educated” into subscribing to an epistemology of ignorance wherein we are taught to: “see the world wrongly, but with the assurance that this set of mistaken perceptions will be validated by white epistemic authority.”
Most Americans are unaware that: “Enslaved African Americans built the modern United States, and indeed the entire modern world, in ways both obvious and hidden.” (The Half Has Never Been Told).
Societies structured around oppression and oppressive practices almost invariably promote the denial and distorting of history and the stripping away of context in order to uphold and maintain a positive view of themselves and to minimize resistance to their oppressive practices. If bad stuff isn’t seen or understood, then it’s less likely to be interrupted or fought against. (invisibling)
The European colonial enterprise has enveloped and warped us all in our thinking and understanding and behaving…and damaged everyone…some horribly... materially and bodily and psychologically via atrocities and violence…and some, were damaged, not bodily, but psychologically and epistemologically. Those who received that latter damage had it masked and hidden, in part, by being given material benefits obtained by threat or violence from the colonized and/or the enslaved.
Begin to educate yourself and to resist by reading The Half Has Never Been Told, read The New Jim Crow, read Slavery By Another Name, read Ebony and Ivory, read Birth of a White Nation, read Is Everyone Really Equal?, read Custer Died For Your Sins.
Read with an open heart and mind, read with the awareness that your cultural conditioning will urge you to deny and minimize and distort what you’re learning (especially if you’re raced as white).
Read with the awareness that you will be made uncomfortable by what you’re reading. Read with the knowledge that if you’re not uncomfortable…then you’re not “getting it”.
Read knowing you’ll try to find ways that exonerate you or your ancestors (if you’re white)…and…if you think you’ve found those ways then you’ve failed to comprehend. We are all immersed in this dismal swamp of oppression, we all participate, whether we want to or not. The greater clarity and understanding of what's going on that we achieve, then the better equipped we are to work to interrupt these damaging practices.
This reading and thinking and comprehending will be hard and painful work. Thank your ancestors for this. It was hard for them too…and they wilted and did not do their work. They opted to turn away from hard truths and painful realities and chose to embrace a lie and they passed that lie on to you.
Read knowing that if you even read one, just one, of those books that I listed, you'll then be more knowledgeable about the reality of the history of the United States than are 99.4% of all white Americans. (I made up that percentage, but it will be very very close to accurate...and that's very sad)
Don't want to read books? Well, I can direct you to some blog posts by Abagond that will disrupt your obliviousness if you prefer short and snappy wreckings of your learned ways of thinking.
Here's a brief history of White America, here's a post about some of the thinking of Vine Deloria, Jr., here's a post about the way colonialism obliterates (physically and historically) Indigenous peoples and their cultures, and here Abagond writes about what he was not taught about American history. (if you're raced as white and live in the U.S., I can almost guarantee that reading Abagond's blog will cause you distress...so be forewarned)
To struggle against (as best you can) white obliviousness will mean hard work and discomfort and much thinking. Mainstream cultural narratives will encourage you to avoid gaining a more accurate view of the way this nation operates by offering a myriad of paths that support denial and/or ignorance.
Our culture/nation is not organized around truth and equality for all...it is based on upholding structural oppression for the benefit of a few...and on obscuring and hiding and denying its own reality.
Racism and these structures of oppression have had centuries to evolve and hone and morph their justifications and obfuscations. You will have to work to fight through these confusions and evasions…and even then...they’ll often win anyway. “Good intentions” aren’t enough. Being a "good person" is not enough. This stuff hasn't persisted for centuries because it is easy to defeat. It would have disappeared long ago if that were true.
Either you fight it or you uphold it, there is no third option…your ancestors made sure of that. If they had done their work, you wouldn’t be faced with doing it now…but they didn’t. Now it’s on you (and me).
Part of the way this stuff keeps going is by keeping us obliviousness to the necessity to fight it.
Living vegan isn't enough to lead a life of minimal harm to others. In the U.S. we all were born into or moved into a horrid system that routinely harms its less socially powerful citizens, either you are struggling to understand and to refrain from harm to them...or...you're participating in harming them (or benefiting from harm to them). There is no opting out of these systemic oppressions.
If you want to be angry at anyone…be angry at your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and generations before that. Your fore-mothers and your fore-fathers failed to interrupt and transform this society of oppression…it’s your turn (and mine) to struggle with the task. If we don't work to oppose it...we are upholding it. (I choose to struggle against it because I find it repugnant and disgusting. What about you?)