When The Snob was a reporter in California she was often assigned all the token assignments revolving around African-Americans. At first I didn’t mind it as I was the only black person in the newsroom and I felt it was important to get socially relevant stories about blacks in our newspaper. But I soon began to resent seeing my editors come up to me every January to come up with ideas for Black History Month coverage.
My dislike of Black History Month started in high school, then ballooned during my semi-radical days as a crazy leftist college newspaper columnist/editor. (Man, was I crazy. It was a glorious time, pissing off the Young Republicans on a semi-regular basis while they reveled in Bill Clinton’s impeachment.) It was then, Feb. 3, 1998, I threw down the gauntlet, officially, against Black History Month.
Though trains of thought have changed in education, the mind-set that African-Americans are not a part of American history often at times has not. In many cases, people have to go to college to learn some of the bits and pieces that have been left out and take specialized history courses. Some never learn the full extent of our American heritage.
Charlemagne did not come to rule Europe in a day. History can not be condensed into a month. History is far too vast a subject, too in-depth to be trivialized to a mere month. If our country discussed the second world war only on Veteran’s day, we could never do justice to an event that changed the course of our society. The backs of African-Americans helped to contribute to the making of this society. Do they not deserve to have their history acknowledged as a viable part of it?
The basis of my hatred is very simple – Black History Month is a form of segregation. Originally created to foster awareness by historian Carter G. Woodson as “Black History Week,” it has expanded to a 28 day farce. An intellectual minstrel show. It is the “blacks only” drinking fountain of soft bigotry.
This is a bone tossed to us blacks both acknowledges and belittles our traditions and accomplishments. This is the one time a year corporations can cobble together tributes to African Kings and Queens (Budweiser) or air segments narrated by Jesse Jackson about blacks contributions to athletics (ESPN).
Don’t give me your fucking pity.
Black history IS American history. They should be taught side-by-side. They should be integrated for there could not have been an America without the free labor that built it. We are proud Americans. We have fought over and over again to prove to ourselves and the world that we are intelligent, we are capable, we are talented, we are beautiful, we are courageous. Celebrate me in full. Give me my rights and accolades.
My great-great uncle was a Buffalo Soldier. My great great grandfather was born slave who told his children how his family escaped from Mississippi in the cover of darkness. I have family members who have fought in every war since World War I. I have a great aunt who gave birth to two half white children and had them taken away by their father.
Acknowledge them. Acknowledge me. Acknowledge the sacrifices my family and millions of other black families made for their country, for their families, for freedom. Don’t regulate my history, our proud history to one month. Don’t teach only that we were bought and we were sold and George Washington Carver did some neat things with peanuts.
See in the 3rd grade this is what you told You was bought, you was sold Now they sayin’ Juice left some heads cracked I betcha Jedd Clampett want his money back (Goodie Mob “Dirty South”)
Don’t continue to treat blacks as the bastard children of America. The other. The outsider. Like abolitionist and early feminist Sojourner Truth cried out in pain, “Ain’t I a woman” in the face of cruel indifference. Like every black man who marched with poster in hand scream “I AM A MAN.” Like Frederick Douglass addressing the world and exposing it to the evils of slavery. Like the thousands of college educated and determined black men who joined the military during World War II wanting to prove to the racists and detractors that they could serve bravely. And they fought for the right to die for their country.
Until America admits to and atones for its racist past. Until we can have an honest dialog about race. Until whites can learn and accept that they have benefited from our pain, reconciliation will always be a dream.
We need more than a month to work out these differences, these complications. We need more than a month to acknowledge how far African-Americans have come and how far we still need to go.
So while you attend your obligatory Black History Month celebrations at church, mumble your way through “Lift E’vry Voice and Sing” because you can’t remember the words. While your newspaper assigns you the obligatory pity Black History Month story. As teachers prepare their token lesson plans on Harriet Tubman and Dr. Charles Drew, remember that black American history goes back to the establishment of the Virginia colony by the British in 1619. Black Americans only have America to claim because we lost our African identity the minute we were made slaves. We lost our culture, our God and to paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., by the way some of us act, we lost our minds.
Others can claim they are Irish American or Italian American. They can claim homelands and cultures they love fondly. All blacks have is America. Our identity began here and we have been forming that identity ever since.
Yet we still rebelled. We revolted. We fought back. We were never the passive “darkies” waiting for our oppressors to change their mind. We stood up. We ran away. We protested. We educated ourselves when the knowledge was illegal. Justice has always been our never ending struggle.
I had a boyfriend once who hated
black history because he believed the garbage that blacks were passive in their struggle against slavery and racism. He called the slaves cowards and stupid for “allowing” themselves to be slaves. I was so furious at his account that I literally was crying. How could he spit in the face of those who worked so hard so that he could go to Morehouse and become a businessman? It actually made me have second thoughts because I’m not ashamed to say that I’m the descendant of slaves. I am not ashamed of my history, good or bad. I have faith in our people even when they’re acting out. I have hope that we will continue to contribute to American history.
Hence my very angry, very passionate response to Black History month. My rebuttal is simple.
You simply can’t explore my people’s history in a month. Understanding in the black diaspora takes a lifetime.