To all the people out there complaining about Black History Month, saying that “if we had something called White History Month, you’d say it was racist!” you’re probably right.
If there was a month that was nationally recognized as White History Month, people probably would say that it was racist. That’s why for the other 11 months out of the year, when all we’re really doing is learning White History, it isn’t called anything other than History. If people labeled the general history that we’re taught in school for what it really is, there would be so many complaints of racism that we’d be forced to change our textbooks to more accurately reflect the diverse range of cultures, histories, and viewpoints of which the world is comprised (and I just want to know: what would you put on the White History Month curriculum that you aren’t already learning? Have you thought about this, or is this just another case of feeling left out, because minorities are forced to blatantly state when they’re doing something in their own interest, and you’re stuck with having to force yourselves to realize when things are being done to privilege you?).
Last week, SNL had a skit/song about Black History Month. You’ve probably seen it. If not, here it is:
“They really don’t teach this stuff in school; it’s a mystery.”
The skit was funny, but also a bit worrisome. It seemed directed solely toward white people, and not even in an informative way. The only two reasons that you should respect black people are that they deserve a chance, and slavery? Ummm no. **
I understand that it was a skit, on SNL, and it was meant to be funny, but I wish it didn’t have to reinforce the idea so many people seem to hold: that February is only about reminding white people that slavery happened and that they should feel guilty. Feeling begrudgingly guilty for 28 days a year does nothing to help the still-oppressed descendants of slaves, especially when the begrudgement gives way to orders to “get over slavery” and “stop playing the race card”. The idea that race is a card that black people keep up their sleeves to “play” white people is ridiculous. It’s not a trick! It’s an actual thing!
Black History Month should be recognized as more than reminding people of slavery and asking for an equal chance. It should be about reminding people where they’ve come from, and showing people examples of stronger ancestors, besides Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks and the watered-down version of MLK Jr. we’re given. Can we read the autobiography of Frederick Douglass(to show a black man who stood up to a white man and lived to become stronger)? Letter from a Birmingham Jail (for another side of Martin)? The Willie Lynch Letter (to shed light on some of the origins of lightskin v. darkskin and black hatred)? Amiri Baraka, for the rebel in each of us, “Dutchman” to show societal traps? Heck, let’s even throw in “Americanah”, because my girl Chimamanda was onto some racial shit. Really any black person who’s doing things, like the youngest person to pass the UK Bar exam, or the girl who won a scholarship without twerking. (Speaking of which, we should also try to stop associating twerking with ignorance, because it actually comes from a rather vibrous, religious culture that the West completely misinterpreted.)
And then, after being inspired, let’s point out the ways in which slavery has manifested itself today. Let’s talk about private prisons, and disenfranchisement, the repeal of the Voting Rights Act, white privilege, Stop and Frisk (which thankfully has been stopped, but never should have been considered justified in the first place)…
February is such a watered down month in school, and it never sends the right message. Either we come away from those 28 days thinking that things used to be bad but now are nothing to complain about, or thinking that even if we should be complaining, we don’t have any true models of resistance. There are no uprisings. No radicalism. And there can’t really be radicalism, if you can get shot for walking home at night in a hood, and your shooter can go on to star in a “celebrity” boxing match. (PLEASE, no one watch that).
At least, that’s the way we’ve learned things to be. That should change.
**By the way, I also do NOT like the fact that the one black woman in that video really had no significance other than being supportive. The white female teacher got to speak, as did the white male student. The two black men got to rap and be funny. All she got to do was look cute, dance, sing “twenty-eight reasons” over and over again, and hold a saxophone. Racism and patriarchy are most definitely entwined, with women of color on the extremely losing end of the spectrum.