By Patrick Barron, Opinion Writer
February is Black History Month in the United States. In the 21st century, the month long celebration in the United States needs to change. The toxic politicization of the month by some groups does a disservice to the countless African-Americans heroes of the past, present, and of the future. Given that, the typical discussions of African-Americans during Black History Month are boring. This does not need to be the case.
Democratic Congresswomen Yvette Clark said, “We must never forget that Black History is American History. The achievements of African Americans have contributed to our nation’s greatness.”
In spite of that, Black Americans contributions are ignored, conveniently whitewashed or subjected to vast skepticism from countless others. One prime example, the continued lunatic theories regarding the “true” birthplace of the nation’s first African-American president Barack Obama. It goes without saying that generations of Americans grew up learning abridged Black history and it follows that we continued to have to discuss race in the America.
We all know the usual suspects who are propagated during the month only to be swiftly forgotten afterwards, so I will not name them. However, we need to know that their stories are inaccurate and subjected to vast revision to serve the interests of overzealous individuals wanted to uphold the status quo. I will attempt to inject a new perspective during the discussions of Black History Month.
First, I have to dispel common problematic myths, which allows some people to view life through rose-colored glasses. Slavery persisted in America under a different name after its abolishment in the 13th Amendment – research convict leasing and debt peonage. Even more, look at the prison-industrial complex (PIC) currently in effect. That older Black woman who did not get up from her seat was a longtime civil rights activist and advocate against Black women sexualized violence in America. Moreover, Black women jumpstarted the American Civil Rights Movement after protesting against pervasive sexual violence in the South at the hands of White men; rarely charged and even more so convicted for their heinous crimes against humanity.
Here are some more tidbits, the common trope of two Black men intellectuals thought to be rivals are more similar than the public perceive them to be. Left out through the traditional narratives of the Black history is the role of self-defense during the Civil Rights Movement. Do people honestly believe only non-violent protest “ended” Jim Crow in the South? In addition, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), are not real pioneers when it comes to school choice.
For instance, Pauli Murray, an African-American women trailblazer who worn numerous hats in her life – a civil rights activist, a women’s rights activist, LGBT icon, and Episcopal priest is a name not widely known but impact in the legal field is immeasurable. It was her legal research that was used in the arguments by the (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) NAACP in the historical landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education (1954).
As Kathryn Shulz wrote in the New Yorker “By her final law-school paper, Murray had formalized the idea she’d hatched in class that day, arguing that segregation violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.”
One can learn a comprehensive history of the United States through the lens of African-Americans. Africans-Americans in the Revolutionary War. Check. African-Americans and the Civil War. Double check. African-Americans and the Civil Rights Movement. Triple check. It is not radical or blasphemous as the staunchest opponents would intimate but it requires an individual to challenge their worldview.
The larger issue is that people expectations do not converge with reality they tend to ignore it. It is akin to a person waking up and looking at a mirror only to see another being, a figment of an imagination. Over 300 years later and America prefers not to discuss race genuinely. It is not only disheartening but sickening too.
James Baldwin, a famous Black novelist and social critic once said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”
By and large, if we were to seriously discuss the reasons behind his sentiment and conclude with solutions afterwards we will be in a better place as a nation. Plus, Black History Month can be so much more interesting.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 13th print edition.
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