I can think of nothing that should be less polemic that somehow manages to be quite like Black History Month. Given the nature of how our African-American citizens came here, given how Jim Crow brutalized people of color all over America but particularly in the south and given how the economic, health and cultural damage is still evident today I think paying attention to the Black figures in our history is very small thing to ask. I also know I am not saying anything new here, but to those of you who ask why there is no white history month I need to remind you: it’s called every other month of the year (and for that matter even February though we do a better job then than some other months.)
I am a little late getting too this, a week into the month and all, but there is still time. My own hometown, Rochester has all sorts of events planned. I am sure your own hometown has events as well and you should look into them. It is important to remember how we got where we are, to give everyone who helped us get there their due and to remember that we have a long way yet to go.
White folks don’t like talking about it. I suspect that a big reason many make the above “White History Month” crack is because looking in mirror can be so damned hard sometimes. Imagine, though, having to do so when your skin is brown and a disproportionate number of public figures are lily white. Imagine TV, radio, magazines, the internet, literature all representing an experience that is not yours. Imagine every historical figure talked about all year long except for one month being a different race than yours. Imagine in that one month of history you are supposed to get, the story of your people still being told through the lens of another people’s privilege.
We have heard quite a bit of talk the past three years that we are living in a “post racial” America. I have seen little evidence that this is true. Politicians still stoke the flames of racial animosity in whites without shame. Any call to care for the needy is automatically framed in terms of the “undeserving” while the word is used as a not too cleverly hidden code for people of color. African Americans can still be turned away from jobs despite being more qualified than a white candidate, but so much of White America, including self described liberals, decry “quotas” that “favor” Blacks . If we are truly living in a “post racial” America, its effects have not made their way to the Black community yet.
If you really want race to no longer matter in this country, I suggest you take some time to let it matter in a meaningful way. Take time to learn about the African Americans who struggled for their own people, who led movements for other victims of privilege struggle (in particular the women’s movement) and who just generally made the world what it is today. Take a month to consider that not everything in our world, indeed much less of it than you realize, was made by white people. When everyone can finally honestly do that, then we will be on the road to a post racial America.