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Sunday, February 23, 2014

My Place in Black History (a semi-rant)

"Every month is Black History Month!"
I honestly believe this, especially as someone who has recently become aware of a lot more world history than what was studied in the high school classroom.  For me, every month is black history month...just as every month is white history month for the rest of the world. But when the month of February comes around and the history blurbs start to be posted around, I start to think about stuff...more than usual.

Although my high school was predominantly black, there was a significant lack in black history celebrations. In my last two years, it was myself and other students who had to push the administration to allow us to host events! Ridiculous, I know. It angered us to no end as to how much of an obstacle the administration represented, when it should have been an obvious right for us, as students. We can file that as reason #13929 school admins can be incompetent. Anyways...

Last year, I had a goal of things that I wanted to make sure were shown in the show and the bulk of my efforts were pushed into a video (which was unfortunately deleted the day before the show and had to be reconstructed in just a few hours...whew)

Rewatching this video one year later, Im surprised by how much I've learned and how much I would change from the video...today.

I think its important to avoid sugar coating anything and everything.

For starters, unlike how I demonstrated it in the video, black history did not start with slavery.  Its just something we learn to accept, as if slave drivers invented black people? Why? Because in history class, the only time we talk about black people is at a time when they were in a position of inferiority, and although slavery is a significant part of our history, its not all there is to it. As Malcolm X loved to remind everyone, the history of African Americans did not begin in chains. There were never any classes on Mansa Musa as there was on Abraham Lincoln, no words uttered about where exactly the idea of a calendar was sourced, or where some of the most sophisticated architecture of the world could be found.

When there is talk about racism being systemic, the school system is a perfect example. White supremacy is not only found in the KKK and in "violent outbursts" but its an unquestioned facet of our culture. Today.

Its found in every single part of our lives.

Why is it that when black girls go to drug stores looking for foundation and amidst the array of different shades of beige...there are only two colours that resemble darker skin...if you're lucky.

Why is it that I am expected to straighten my curls anytime I need to look professional?
Why is it that as a child, I was expected to stop myself from getting darker, because darker is somehow less beautiful than lighter skin?
Why is it that Macklemore is getting so much support for CO-WRITING a song about how much it would probably suck to be LGBTQ+ or black, but no one is actually supporting LGBTQ+ or black artists?

There are so many more questions I could ask, but in all honesty, writing this post hurts.

If I were to remake the video I worked on last year, it would be completely different. It would start with all of the black Kings and Queens and continue to show the resilience and accomplishments of African Americans despite it all, but how would it end? Would I have concluded the video as optimistically as I had with all this new knowledge? Where would Trayvon Martin, Marissa Alexander, Jordan Davis, Alfred Wright, and so many others be? Would I have been able to physically bring myself to do so...I'm not sure. But that video would have definitely been a lot longer because there was so much left unsaid.


  1. Great post. It's nice to have a special time dedicated to the celebration of a culture -- but as you say, that doesn't mean it's the ONLY time that culture should be celebrated. (Kind of like love and Valentine's Day?) And you make so many great points about continued systemic "interpretation" of non-white history. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    1. The love/valentines comparison is pretty good actually! Thank you for reading & commenting, very much appreciated :)

  2. I loved your post. Its so nice to see someone writing about a thought provoking subject instead of trivial nonsense (love that by the way but sometimes its good to read something more). White and British but totally agree with everything you say. Its the same in the UK - in school we learn about the same things (WW1 and WW2 mostly) and that is important but there are so many pockets of history that people never know about and how can we learn and grow if we live in ignorance. Again great post :)

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