History, As Told By The Victors

Anyone that has followed my career knows I’m a stan for Bill Simmons, from his days as one of the few long form columnists at ESPN (along with his protege Zach Lowe), evolving into “the Podfather” at Grantland, and into his standalone venture at The Ringer. His knack for calling out bullshit in sports and thinking outside the box was inspirational to young creative writers like myself looking for their voice.

He’s also an old aging white guy, and like most old aging white guys, they have been the scribes of history for millennia. Their opinions become constitution, written in permanent ink and followed by millions of people for generations. That level of control over the narrative is timeline-altering.

On a recent episode of The Rewatchables, a podcast on The Ringer’s network, Simmons anointed The Godfather as the greatest movie of all-time, without much push back from his co-hosts (also white men). The movie stars a who’s who of White male actors and centers on the life of an Italian-American crime family.

The Godfather is, objectively, a great movie. But I can say with full confidence that for most Black women in America, it’s not cracking the top 10. The same is true for most of the films on the “all-time great” lists on IMDB, Rolling Stone, and the like.

Since the dawn of time, the history books and “top 100s” have been recorded by the same people. Their position of privilege has guided the conversation around popular culture.

So what would it take to rewrite that history?

What would that same top 100 movie list look like if Issa Rae and Meryl Streep held the reigns? Would films like The Color Purple get more consideration than The Departed?

History is told by the victors because historically, the ability to chronicle that history has been in the hands of the few. Now, with the Internet and mass media distribution, different voices, like progressive darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, can be amplified and break through the noise.

The experiment gets more complicated when you consider national politics. For years, the law of the land has been written by similarly privileged White men, making them the primary beneficiaries of those policies and disproportionately affecting women and minorities in a negative way.

What if the US Constitution was rewritten from scratch? 39 new signees from all walks of life. With the demographic shifts in America, the advent and pervasiveness of the Internet, our society looks dramatically different than it did in 1787. How similar would it be? Where would the major changes occur?

Something I’ve noticed in my short time as a businessperson is that if you don’t set up the system for success from the onset, it’s hard to retroactively apply fixes to the system without it stacking, and eventually falling, like a house of cards.

Perhaps it’s time to rethink the framework of our political system from the ground up?