Normalizing Black History is Better.
I have conflicting feelings about the celebration of Black History Month. The most dominant emotion is tied to the belief that celebrating such a significant part of our American history for a single month, only to have it ignored the rest of the year in classrooms, book clubs, and wherever credit is due, is ridiculous. African American culture is the cajun spice to the white meat of American society. It should be recognized for what it has provided and enriched within our social structure: As commonly as apple pie and linen drapes in the open kitchen window. From Jazz music to black literature, culinary staples, and a deeply wounded history, African American history should be recognized as part of our everyday lives.
I feel frustrated at the overly zealous white folk who want to wave the Black History Month flag on February 1st and, undoubtedly, pack that flag back up on March 1st. I can’t stand the social justice warrior who jumps right on it from the start but then gets… firetruck! White folk need to spend their energy dealing with our own racial identity aloud, amongst other white folks. We need to quietly make room, support, read, watch, and follow those contributors from groups we are not a member. There is plenty of whiteness to be examined, accounted for, and dismantled. Let’s start there, white people.
I am glad we have a month to focus on our brothers and sisters of African descent and their contributions to society. Much of that celebration is focused on the struggle to arrive at a place of recognition and equitable opportunity. So much space is given to the battle, which would be less-so if whiteness was sincerely examined by those identified as white. Whiteness takes up most of the room for celebrating the brilliance of black contributions.
When we provide space for those contributions, it often boils down to food, music, and literature. How about science? How about the incredible contributions of African American engineers, economists, or politicians? You all just thought of Barack, didn’t you? And why wouldn’t you? We are still having “our first” in so many categories: First African American Vice President, first African American Governors, first African American Senators, first African American cabinet positions. This is not due to a lack of talent in the African American community. This is directly connected to the systemic focus that all of our systems of culture, governance, education, finance, etc., have on whiteness.
This is white supremacy: Our society’s inherent component to focus on, propel forward, venerate, and illuminate the successes, opportunities, and benefits within the system for those with light skin and European descent. When the term White Supremacy is used, we see the clan leader’s effigy in front of the burning pyre standing clothed in bedsheets. That’s because we’ve been programmed to see it, and it is readily accepted into our sense of being. It’s outside of ourselves. We can point at it, we can blame it, we can admonish it, but the reality is; it’s within us. Read a book this month, journal, take in a film and hold courageous conversations with other white folks about whiteness. Let the public space for leading action be given to those who don’t look like us.