Thought For the Day:
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.” – President Barack Obama
Question For the Day:
What is Black History Month about for you?
I was in church today and as is traditional, several students from the youth ministry put on a brief presentation in honor of Black history month. As always, the children take turns highlighting several well known Black inventors that always includes Madam C.J. Walker though heralded less for being a self-made Black millionairess long before it was fathomable and more for inventing the straightening comb. George Washington Carver usually makes the cut although his brilliant work as a botanist and innovator in alternative farming is reduced down to the “man who invented peanut butter.” There is always mention of other notable African Americans such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks who are indeed worthy of the recognition they receive. However, there has always been something troubling about the fact that much of this is not discussed outside of the shortest month of the year. It also concerns me that a race of people who were civilized on the continent of Africa long before our European counterparts, have a history here in America that is summed up so neatly with bullet points that generally include: slavery, segregation, the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama. Personally, I believe Black American history has to start with African history, but this is not about that today.
Today, I am wondering if we approach our history each February from a place of seeking validation. It’s as if the rest of the year, no one’s showing us any love so we take four weeks each year to once again remind everyone of all of the wonderful things we’ve accomplished. I’m sure plenty of people need reminding or flat out never knew much about our history, but I’m not sure how I feel about needing to be the one to educate them. In general, if someone is interested in a particular subject, they will take the initiative to educate themselves. At least, that’s how I operate. So, if the dominant culture is not yet interested enough in Black people to educate themselves, even with a Black man in the White House, I’m not sure what is expected of me. This is why I find it kind of sad that year after year, we once again present our resume to the White majority in hopes that our application to be treated as viable members of this American society can finally be approved . When will we have accomplished enough? Where others are considered American by virtue of their birthright, it feels as if we have to run down our credits to prove our right to be here. I’m sure President Obama and his over-exposed birth certificate would agree. At some point, shouldn’t it just be understood that we are just as much an integral part of this country as everyone else? Perhaps because our history in America is so uniquely horrid, we still feel the need to prove our humanity. If we remind you enough times about how Garrett Morgan designed the traffic light, will that finally be the tidbit of information that makes us fully human in your eyes? Apparently not, if you look at the fact that in 2015, we still have to insist that Black lives matter. (Reflecting…sigh) I suppose my point is this. Who is Black history month really about? Is it a showcase of our worthiness in an attempt to win the majority over? If so, then please, let’s just give it up. If someone still does not think we belong in this country even with a Black president, then what will four weeks of little know Black history facts do to convince them?
Now if you are African American and Black History Month is a time to define for yourself who you are, then that, I can get with. Maybe, it should be purely a time of self reflection for our own people. Maybe, it’s a time to assess what your children know and make a commitment to filling in the gaps. Perhaps it’s a time to set new goals for your family by examining the goals that were set and accomplished by those who went before us. Maybe it’s a time to reconnect and engage in community efforts that further the mission of our ancestors. Ultimately, if the question of who we are as Black people is going to be asked each February, then let’s make sure that the answers are for our benefit. If what makes African Americans a special people is still a mystery to you at this point then there’s nothing twenty-eight days is going to teach you. And if you are a Black person that waits for February to explore your history, then you can’t be surprised when our young people end up just as ignorant to Black history and indifferent as everyone else.
Black history is happening every day with each Black life well-lived. I respect how much things have changed for our people and for the valiant work of those who paved the way for me. It is good that there has been a month designated to be reminded. However, I’m also thankful for the changes I see every other day of the year, each time I look into the mirror. That’s Black history that I have to appreciate for myself. That’s the progress that will ultimately change this nation and solve the mystery of who we are for the haters once and for all.