Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What I'm not talking about.

I was reading Womanist Musings this morning and was reminded that it is Black History Month.

The following is all I'm saying about it.

There was a time when I was always excited about Black History month. I would help sometimes decorate the library or whatever classroom but then I think around high school age it wore off.

I realized then that Black history month was not important to my friends. That it was not important to much of my family and finally it just pisses me off.

My issue is that I hate that our (as in all of us Americans) this is our shared history. That there is so much more to know than there was a guy named Martin Luther King Jr, some folks protested, some former slaves wrote some books.

It pisses me off that for the rest of the year when people have plenty of time (and these days if you have the internets you have the access) to learn this history that they just don't bother. And don't even get me started on school curriculum.

I refuse to believe that a month of skimming over the highlights (or lowlights depending on your view) does a fucking thing.

Now, if you want to learn some Black history use the google machine.

So don't wish me a happy Black History month I will not give you a cookie.

Being that this is not just Black history, but American history a month will not suffice. Some collages and decorations are not going to fucking cut it.

Let me tell you a wee story here, here is some Black History.

When I was around 13 years old I heard the name Emmett Till. I'm not sure how I heard his name or where but I remember going to the library to read about him.

I read everything I could get my hands on about this poor murdered boy.

At 13 no one could explain it to me, all I could think about was that in recent history a boy hardly older than myself was murdered and no one did anything about it.

I started to read about more things like this. Public beatings, lynchings, harassment, etc. I had nightmares.

I was afraid to be a Black child in America because I saw the proof that if something happened to me, chances were nobody would do anything about it.

I knew no comfort.

I had family members who were old enough to have lived through Jim Crow. Family members who were still afraid to speak up for themselves in public. Family members who in these Grand Old United States who could not just live their lives because of their skin color.

As I got older, I started to understand that despite changes in law, and this nod to my history, too many people were not doing anything.

While I have lived to see a Black man become president, I also live with people telling me it's no big deal since he's mixed race anyway. I live with people who could give two shits about what it is actually like to be a person of color in this country. Who can't understand how it can mean so much to me to see a face that in some ways reflects my own running this country.

People who have no idea and don't want to know what it's like to be a child and know that there are people who would rather see you dead than give a shit about you based solely on the color of your skin.

Before you wish me a Happy Black History month, ask yourself what do you know about Black History? If it were June instead of February would you bother to know these things?

I'm getting frothy but you get my point.

To sum up, I don't want Black History month. I want Black history right along wide the dead white guy history. I want to open an American History book and find out about Black settlers in the old west. I want to flip to a page about industrialized agriculture and see Granville Woods' name.

I want English, American lit classes etc to cover slave narratives alongside Hemmingway and Willa Cather.

This country has never and will never do Separate but Equal well in any way. I don't want separate history because it's not separate history.

If you are an American, Black history is your history, Asian history is your history. It is OUR history and should be treated thus.

So don't wish me a Happy Black History Month.

Instead, in June pick up a book and learn our history.

Homo Out.
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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Totally agreed. I was also raised by my white grandparents, and still know almost nothing about my father's family. And if we can't be honest about our personal history, how can we possibly be honest about our shared American history? About all the people that made us who we are today?

You totally rock.

Piffle said...

Yes, absolutely; and I'm lily colored (freckles and all).

It's a bit superficial, but one reason I like watching Cold Case is that they can take us back to those times and really imbue them with emotion. It's chilling to see people behaving like that. A warning about the evil ordinary people can do.

And thank you, I will make an effort to help educate my kids about our shared history. I remember a good book I read about their age, Amos Fortune, Free Man. They're a bit young for the really gruesome stuff.

Twistie said...

A-freaking-men.

I also sometimes feel that way about Women's History Month. Why not hear about Susan B. Anthony at other times of the year?

Martin Luther King Jr. and George Washington Carver were both great men who did amazing things...but there's a hell of a lot more to history than any two or three names, no matter how laudable they may have been.

And how sad is it that Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth show up in either Black History Month or Women's History Month...but never seem to be acknowledged as both black and women.

I may come of the Transparent Peoples, but I broke out into a huge grin of delight a couple weeks ago when I saw a young black guy at the mall wearing a tee shirt that said 'My President is a Black Man.' I'm also damn well looking forward to the day when I can wear with equal pride a shirt that says 'My President is a Woman.'

History doesn't happen in neat little compartments. It's time people learned that.

Scattered Marbles said...

I totally agree with you, all through school and such I was often very frustrated at the separation in history, I mean it is all a part of who we are.. why did it have to be separated. I think it would do all of us good.. if it was all just taught together so people can learn without putting it into a certain category kept for a special section in history. It effected everyone and history as a whole.. it makes more sense to me that our history was taught as a whole.. instead of cutting it up do to racial differences. I got so mad in school when there would be a special black history section and other wise you never heard of it.

Like you say it is all a part of OUR history, by segregating Black history or any other history for that matter it just continues to reinforce the message that black people are to be kept separate and giving them a month seems like petty lipservice, Black history is no less important that white history and should be taught right alongside it so everyone can understand more clearly how it effected history as a whole.

Ace said...

White history is black history, black history is white history, black and white history fits into all the immigrant history, and you have American history, not black history or Asian history or Hispanic history or white history.

I live in Baltimore, which is majority black, and most everyone sees Black History Month as something needed... and as someone who doesn't think it's needed, some consider me racist. But... separate but equal much?!

You know who needs a lot more of a share of history in schools, though? Native Americans. This continent did not magically appear when the British colonized it.

In short, I completely agree... and I'm glad someone else has sense.

Haddayr said...

Holy crap you've been on a brilliant roll lately; thank you for another excellent post.

O said...

I just need to quote this again because it is so beautiful and brilliant:

To sum up, I don't want Black History month. I want Black history right along wide the dead white guy history. I want to open an American History book and find out about Black settlers in the old west. I want to flip to a page about industrialized agriculture and see Granville Woods' name.

I want English, American lit classes etc to cover slave narratives alongside Hemmingway and Willa Cather.

This country has never and will never do Separate but Equal well in any way. I don't want separate history because it's not separate history.

If you are an American, Black history is your history, Asian history is your history. It is OUR history and should be treated thus.


Brilliant. I can't stop saying that. So true and so well-put.

I don't even know how I found your blog but you are instantly being bookmarked and I will be back. Thank you for this post.

DavitaCuttita said...

I wish we didn't need Black History Month anymore but until all of us and the government can come to terms with and accept the truth and place it where it belongs (in this case, in a history book); I can think of only one populous who absolutely, positively need it.

Children.

So I'll vouch for it for their sake and their sake alone but not ours--we don't have an excuse.

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