Normally I pay as little attention to Black History Month as possible. Why? It sends the wrong message. The message it sends is that for only 28 days of the year, in the shortest month of the year, we will take notice of an unsung group of Americans we do everything in our power to pretend the rest of the year, they do not exist, do not contribute anything viable to the American experience and if they vanished tomorrow, the only thing that would happen is the nation would breathe a collective sigh of relief, before they returned to finding the next cultural boogeyman to vilify.
And that, my friends, is the wrong message.
You see, Black History IS American History. We have been in this nation as long as any group of people to have ever lived here save the Native Americans. We have had as much to do with the establishment of this nation, its agriculture (unfortunately, as slaves of that industry) its transportation (the railroads and exploration of the West) its science, politics, religion, music, sports, entertainment, well, pretty much anything that has been done in this nation has been led by, created with the help of, designed with the support of or simply created from whole cloth by People of Color.
And that does not jibe with the monomyth of White Supremacy and its playmate, Cultural Superiority. America likes to believe it has exported its culture to the world; democracy, fair play, capitalism are all Great American Exports. And in some ways, those things may not have been invented here, but we (Americans) redefined them, repackaged them and now they are desired by the world at large.
But America does not drink the Kool-aid it sells to the world. This is a nation still divided primarily by money. Old money. Money that can trace its ancestry (such as it is) back to the days of Chattel-Agricultural Slavery and the Robber Barons of the American Railroad. For a part of American culture that had such long lived and powerful roots, slavery does not seem to have had any advocates nor beneficiaries, if modern culture is to be believed. No one’s family seems to have benefited from slavery. Nor does anyone know of any families that ever held slaves. “No sir, not me, my family never owned any slaves,” or so the expression goes.
Let’s keep it real folks, many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves. They did it and like many who did, they grew wealthy. So if you want to figure out who held slaves, go back in history and follow the money. Likely, where money has accumulated, slavery or crimes like it held sway to develop that wealth. The old expression goes “You can find out how a man grew wealthy only if you can find the bodies he had to bury to get there.” Now I don’t hold a grudge. Not a serious one, anyway. Slavery has been a human experience probably since we started walking upright.
The crux of the issue is this: How long can a nation stay divided, by the people in power, who use their wealth and influence to dominate society, to create false divisions (artificial boundaries where people fight over things that objectively have no real value whatsoever) and sow moral dissent in an effort to say in power? I ask this question because I realized that being Black was never going to change for me. I would never wake up one day and be White. So any stigma generated by my blackness, did not come from me. It comes from the person who holds the stigma. So if I find myself unable to find work because of the social conditioning that says: “Black men are lazy, shiftless and do as little as possible for themselves or their families, so you shouldn’t give them jobs…” even if I worked harder than a three-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, the stigma and joblessness stays with me, being reinforced because no one will give me a job, thus perpetuating the myth now becoming reality.
Let me say it again: The stigma is not mine. I did not create it. I did not perpetuate it. I don’t lay it upon me. I am simply forced to bear it. The society that promoted it is at fault for its continued perpetuation.
But let me ask you a question: If this nation were truly as egalitarian, as supportive, as merit driven, as opportunity-oriented as the spin doctors would have you believe, would there be this major political trend toward crushing unions, a thirty year history of purposeful stagnated wages, allowing the rich to grow fabulously wealthy by increasing the price of everything while diminishing your ability to buy it; an education system that has been allowed to grow enfeebled and unable to cope with the rapid pace of technical change in the world today? Would there be an ecological bankruptcy that simply denies that creating billions of automobiles, computers, cell phones, supermarket items, thousands of fast food restaurants where we harvest millions of organisms every year just to feed the developed world and pretend it has no effect on the world or the people living on it? What about drilling holes in the Earth to harvest hydrocarbons whose main purpose is to be sold by the highest bidder to the poorest people just to keep them in a form of economically-driven indentured servitude? What about the fact the American population is slowly growing less mentally capable, whose physical health is continuing to diminish despite having the most sophisticated medical technology in the world, all the while people are less happy, less motivated, more stressed, more suicidal and now have a quality of life that for the first time in fifty years, will not be higher than the previous generation? This is a culture which appears to be slowly self destructing.
How could such a nation exist and call itself enlightened? More over how could such a nation consider itself a paragon in the darkness that is life on Earth?
The answer: It can’t.
So, I have many years ago decided that the system of things being done in the world today are not being done in my name. I refuse to buy anything made in a sweatshop (if I know about it. I endeavor to know.) I wear nothing with a logo or a brand name, because no one is paying me to further their cause before I further my own. (No, I don’t own any iTechnology and I once loved Apple as a company, but their recent behavior has made me question all things computer-related.) I watch as little modern media as possible. It paints a negative image of People of Color, if they even exist at all. I do not watch nor support major sporting teams. If you knew how much money is spent and how little of it goes to the people who make it actually possible, you wouldn’t either. I devote my time to my family, educating myself and my community about what we can do to survive effectively, humanely, and to be a benefit to my world, rather than a drain on it.
You see it is about choice. You can decide you want to spend your life asleep at the wheel, Facebooking (or your social media of choice) your life away, taking pictures of yourself from arm’s length, talking about where you are, and what you are doing, learning about the sleeping habits of the inhabitants of Jersey Shore or the Real Housewives of (insert pitiful city here), or you can go out and learn a new language, meet new people, write a book, teach a person to read, inspire a child to greatness, help an old person who may not get around as well as they used to, volunteer yourself to a cause greater than yourself, read a book and enhance your brain, share that book and maybe you can shape the world.
The Public Good is Dead. It has been replaced by the Corporate Quarterly Report. Everything that matters from the gasoline in your car, to the politicians in your local office is now determined by the power of corporations all over the nation. If it does not expand the next quarter’s profits, it has no value and the human elements of our culture are being replaced by jurisprudence that boggles the mind. See the Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Committee rulings basically giving corporations the power to spend unlimited money on elections. Don’t take my word for it. Read it yourself.
When you get tired of watching corporations turn your world into a steaming pile of shyte, you can decide how to make them go away. Stop buying things you don’t need, to fund a never-ending cycle of boom and bust that only benefits big business, because only they have enough money to bet on both sides of the equation. If there is money to be made, they will make money selling the product, or they will make money cleaning up after the mess. No jail time will be had for any involved. As any of our major banking establishments after the 2008 financial collapse. Over 5000 protesters of the collapse in the Occupy Movement have been to jail. Not a single banker graces a cell yet. Seems equitable and fair, doesn’t it. Stop taking their crap. Stop participating in your own destruction.
So what does this rant have to do with Black History Month? Nothing. Not a damn thing. That is the point. Republicans keep harping on how President Obama is the Welfare President, and we have angry Black Politicians like Representive West in Florida saying that Obama is inflating the numbers for the unemployment of Black Men. And yet we are vilifying people who are on foodstamps which are at an all time high of 41 million people. This nation has political leaders who have done little to help President Obama since he has been in office and this is because he is a Black President. How does this ranting against the president help the nation? How did the promise of the Republican Party to make him a one term president really help anyone? Why would they even say this? It’s a Black thing. Not playing the race card, I am watching the Race Poker Championship and Obama isn’t dealing. He isn’t even wanted at the game.
Yes, I said what no one would dare to say in polite company. The Republicans (and a few Democrats) are obstructing his work, not because it does not meet with politics as we know it, because let’s face it, it does. His ideas, strange as it sounds have been the ideas of his political enemies (sometimes he has been so bold as to offer them things they had asked for a few weeks earlier) but they are too blind with their rage to see it. They will find their rage is directing Obama to a second term because they can’t get over themselves. So I have to laugh because Obama is using their rage to his advantage.
So when I look at Black History Month I have to realize, that the reason its only 28 days long is because the Whites that brought People of Color here all those years ago, did what they did because without People of Color, they would not have been able to be and do the amazing things that have been done in America. The wealth from centuries of paying no wages, has allowed this nation to grow and prosper in ways the founding fathers never realized. And I think strangely enough, only thirty or forty years ago, big business has relearned and reinvented this idea. Corporate America has been heading toward having people work for less and having fewer choices until there is virtually an entire slave caste again. I expect to see a piece of legislation called the Slavery Restoration Act, any day now and I am certain our politicians, back by big corporations, can make a case for it.
But imagine their secret shame when they have to acknowledge every day, that they owe their entire nation to People of Color whose sacrifices they are sanitizing from history every day, has allowed them to come to fabulous wealth and power and influence, but they must spend every day of that existence, every penny of that wealth, lobbying, brainwashing, blinding, controlling and manipulating everyone around them, because if anyone really knew what was being done, they might just tear it all down and replace it with what America said it wanted to be.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of our teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Every month is Black History Month. Without our ancestors work, yes, the work you could not do, you would have nothing. Yes, I am talking to you. You know who you are. Without the brilliance of those people, who struggled, who fought, who ran, who lived and died under the lash, your America would not exist. You fear the day we should ever learn of our true power. The power that create George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, Emmett Till, Madame Walker, Paul Robeson, Josephine Baker, Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X, Mae Jemison, Micheal Eric Dyson, Octavia Butler, and Neil Degrasse Tyson who managed to overcome despite all of the obstructions placed before them.
What if all People of Color realized of what great stock they are derived from and what they are truly capable of? Our superstars transformed all music, science, mathematics, business, engineering and sports. And they did these things unsupported by the bulk of our community. Each only had a tiny handful of people who nurtured their talent to its ultimate form. Imagine what we could do if we worked collectively together, despite the machinations of the Econo-Socio-political Machine, toward that goal if we just put forth into practice the idea: “that the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”
Then there would be no need for Black History Month. It would just be History. What a great nation we would truly be.
Goodnight everybody, don’t forget to tip your waitress on the way out.
Powerful words! Important pictures, too. They all evoke deep emotion. Wishing to inspire a nation and a race. Great work.
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I think you have to look at the situation in perspective. There was a time where black history was not even acknowledged. When the concept of bringing focus on black achievement in this country was first initiated it was Negro History WEEK! So know it is a month, but we know that as you say, black history is American history. I make it a point to make black history relevant to those around me everyday, but I see the month as an opportunity to educate those who still have no perspective on our contributions. I know I have used it to my advantage.