Black History Month

In many ways,  Black History Month has become one long month for beneficiaries of white supremacy to assuage their guilt over slavery, or feign solidarity, and I was this close to saying ‘damn it all to hell,’ we should get rid of it.

It wasn’t because I didn’t like the shiny commercials, and “all black everything” for 28-days strong. I had just become sick and tired of the publicity stunts. You know, those corporations that only trot out a black rep during BHM, and it’s generally with some symbolic gesture to prove that they really and truly do like black people, so black people really and truly should buy their product or patronize their business for 12 months out of the year, not just one.

Very similar to how the Democratic Party made voter suppression the key issue for black America, invoking the spirit of the Selma boycott and throwing in a picture of the first Black president sitting in Rosa Parks’ seat on the bus. By the time they had finished the old Beltway Shuffle, some black people were linking arms, marching to the polls, and singing “We Have Overcome.” And some of these same people are only just now realizing that push-back against voter suppression only benefits the party in power if that party doesn’t address our specific concerns as a community once they’re in office.

Yeah, kinda like that.

When McDonald’s (strategically placed in low-income, minority neighborhoods) and Wal-Mart (one of the most unethical corporations in the country), are carrying the torch for Black History Month, then something is seriously wrong.

We’re being sold our own history.

The same white-washed stories we’re taught in schools, are being fed to us as “Black History” nuggets of wisdom about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and now President Barack Obama. And as garnish, we get to bask in our many achievements while white people debate the alleged hypocritical racism of doing so.

Today, many of us don’t use the opportunity to discuss Toni Morrison, and her brilliant deconstructions of race and colorism, or Zora Neale Hurston and her insistence that prayer is for people not at peace with the universe, who attempt through coercion to change the will of God — if there is one. We don’t pay homage to the Black Panther Party and their tireless work to bring the Free Lunch Program for Children into fruition.

Most of us don’t teach our children about Dr. King’s opposition to the Vietnam War or support of unions. We certainly don’t discuss how United States government agencies were found guilty for conspiring to assassinate him in 1999. Instead, we’ve become satisfied to let his legacy rest in “I Have a Dream.” Many of us certainly don’t discuss Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier and Paul Robeson. What if our children knew that the most revered artists of a generation didn’t focus on ” money, cars and hoes,” they instead used their influence to speak out again injustice, regardless of who perpetuated it, and would have been caught dead before being found guilty of what Mr. Belafonte so eloquently described as “patriotic treason”?

We most certainly don’t discuss how El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz  (Malcolm X) embraced diversity in religion, but never stopped speaking out against the virulent racism in this country, which just this week allowed the FBI to apprehend his grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, and release no information on his whereabouts.

There are many more examples, but they all lead to the fact that many of us have allowed ourselves to become content with postage stamps and Lifetime specials. We’ve become lazy, allowing this country to repackage our history, wrap it in a shiny bow and wait for us to say thank you.

Black History is so much more than a feel good 28-day PR blitz during which accolades are valued over accountability, and if Dr. Carter G. Woodson were alive today, he would be appalled at the level of mis-education that has taken place. When he created “Black History Week” it wasn’t so that others could control with advertising dollars what sliver of our story would be recognized, but so that our history would never be forgotten — especially by us.

And it’s past time that we remembered that.

29 Comments

  1. CulturallyAware

    I agree that we are being resold our history, in a convenient package. I think the ignorance among us with regards to African American history is due to the rat race of life and not prioritizing things like reflection, reading for leisure…alot of us are just trying to keep a roof over our heads and feed our children. For those of us in the position to leisurely pursue our history more in depth are priviledged!I believe that Clutch is in a great position to be one of the many pioneers to be influential on the type of black history we consume. So instead of complaining about how black America is neglecting our history, focus on the little you can continue to do Clutch, about the type of black history your readers consume. I agree that our history is beyond Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X., Black Panther Party, Civil Rights and Slavery. It is important to note the roots of some of our famous leaders of the past came from ..the talented tenth…a group of educated and well exposed African Americans. This group was so rare that mainstream black America and even black America at the time did not really know that people like them were capable of such great achievement, in spite of the incredibly harsh adversities they faced. Some of the talented tenth understood and believed in the power of partnership and coming together for the greater good and social advancement. When I read the book Our Kind of People by Lawrence Otis Graham and learned about exclusive African American social clubs like Jack and Jill, The Links etc. and generations of wealthy African American families pre and post civil rights..I was amazed. There are many things that I dont agree with , like some of the elitist mentality that some of our wealthier brothers and sisters have, but the take away from my knowledge about these kind of people is being able to step outside you comfort zone and partner with the right people (black or white) that will put you in a position to live the lifestyle you want and use your color to your advantage..not a disadvantage!Don’t get caught up in the hype that the white man is out to get you..yes they are some people like that..but there are many that want to help you and because of that you can advance socially and have free time to reflect, consume and teach the black history you feel needs to be shared.

  2. The Artist

    Black history starts in the home. Honestly, I get so sick and tired of children drilling one another over designer labels, yet they fail to know their own history.

    History taught in the school system is complete BS. During a US history course in middle school, I got so tired of hearing the white people.. invented that…conquered that…wrote that…established this.I raised my hand and said, “So what did the Black people do”? The instructor, a white man, completely stopped, stared for 5 seconds and said “Oh errmmm they were mostly out West during this time period.” Or course I knew at the time, his response was completely ridiculous”.

  3. Barbara

    I’ve tried to find out why Malcolm X’s grandson was arrested and what happened to him. Perhaps Americans are not allowed to travel to Iran?

  4. I’ve learned more about my history outside of grade school. What I find disturbing is how people are making jokes about it online & in the radio. Jokes such as “First black woman to not give a damn” etc. We have a time set aside for our history & we make unnecessary jokes instead.

  5. The real truth here is that there has been an overall dumbing down of America, where no one learns -Black, White, or otherwise. As much as White heros are presented and taught, I’m pretty sure you would not be able to find a kid who knows about the War of 1812. With that said, I do agree with the article that Black people should not fall in line with the propaganda and sterilized facts presented, and it means that it is even more important now that we take responsibility for our education. Personally, though I do not subscribe to a month, and I believe that the notion of BHM has been thrown away b/c of the “Black 365″ mantra.

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