A Pointed Message To White America
As we transition from a month that celebrates the history of black people (also the shortest month of the year… coincidence?) into a month that celebrates public intoxication and leprechauns, I feel that now is as good a time as any to reflect on what is happening in our country. The past month was highlighted not by the celebration of the many black men and women who have contributed greatly to society, but the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, who has a history of rejecting black judges on the federal bench of Alabama. Sessions also has been accused of making jokes about the KKK, and speaking derogatorily to a black deputy. Basically, this seemingly racist Keebler Elf has been added to the All-Star cast that is the White House staff.
That’s not to say that Black History Month was not recognized, in fact it was recognized by the leader of our country. During a press conference on February 2nd, Trump acknowledged that “Frederick Douglass is an example of someone who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice,”. Frederick Douglass died in 1895. It almost seemed as though Trump was reading from a script that said ‘insert any living black person here’, and then could be visibly seen wracking his brain, only to come up with the very dead Frederick Douglass.
While at least Trump was able to choose someone who is actually a part of black history, it seems that many others have forgotten the ‘Black’ in ‘Black History Month’. Vice President Pence sent out a tweet celebrating Abraham Lincoln abolishing the 13th amendment, ending slavery. Much like Frederick Douglass is not alive, Abraham Lincoln is not black. Much like receiving a gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse as a vegetarian, the thought was there, however the content was just a little bit off. While this is acceptable coming from a co-worker, from the Vice President of the United States it is unnacceptable. It shows ignorance, something that has become acceptable and widespread among white America.
Something like celebrating the achievement of a white man might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of ending injustice, and maybe it is. However, that does not make it insignificant in the lives of Black America. Tensions are high, the wounds of the past few months are still raw. I don’t know what it’s like to live in constant fear for my life and the life of my children, solely based on the color of our skin. Neither do you. What you see as pouting is actually a cry for help from those in need, those who feel forgotten and trampled upon.
The culture of Black Americans is not celebrated, and never has been to a large extent. This is due to the fact that 1.White America as a whole does not care and 2.black people are only accepted if they conform to the culture of whites. The most celebrated black people of all time are saintly, articulate, and well dressed. Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson, and Barack Obama all represented figures so incomprehensibly perfect that they were able to succeed despite being black. They represent the conformity to white culture that must take place to be truly considered worthy of celebrating.
Black History Month is so much more than a time to remember that not everyone is white. It’s a time for America as a whole to show black boys and girls that they do have a future, that their lives do matter. It’s a time to recognize that there is a whole other culture that is not truly celebrated in our country. This starts not with Black America, but with White America. It is our responsibility to affirm that black lives do truly matter, because that message isn’t coming from the White House anytime soon.