Celebrating Black History....and a message to white people
Friday, February 1st, was the first day of Black History Month!
Special thanks to Carter G. Woodson for creating Negro History Week in Washington, D.C. in February 1926. He chose the second week of February because it celebrated the birthday of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Actually, Negro History Week wasn’t just created out of the blue. In 1916, Woodson had moved to D.C. and founded the “Association for the Study of Negro Life and Culture” because he believed black history should be available to more people. The 1920s saw a rise in the interest in African American culture. The Harlem Renaissance showed and represented this culture with writers, musicians, and artists wrote, sung, drew, and played the sorrows and joys of blackness, why it should be celebrated, and why its beauty and importance.
I’m black every day. Every month. Every minute. Every second. My history speaks volumes. Black history is American history. It is world history. Our history didn’t just begin when the first ship of African slaves was brought to America. To be African American is to be African without memory and American, without privilege.
I enjoy Black History Month because, even though black history IS American history, it seems to be a month when some people choose to actually recognize it more than other days of the year. With that being said, I’ve had white people ask me what they can do to celebrate black history month and how they can show they care about black history. Well, there are some things that can be done!
Commit to being anti-racist. Commit to speaking out against racism. Commit to being uncomfortable with learning more about what racism is and how deep it is in our society. Commit to listening to black people. Commit to dismantling this system that America has created. It’s not enough to only “like” or “love” things on social media. It’s not enough to nod your head and agree when someone is talking about social injustice or how racism is still happening. You have to speak up, too. This is why I have an issue with the shallow understanding people have of the word ‘ally’. BEING an ally requires much, much more.
Support and donate to black owned and black created businesses that are directly related to and support the black community.
Buy and read books written by black authors. There are a lot of books out there by black authors that also address issues of race and social injustice. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby (I’m reading this one now), The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. These are just a few by present-day writers.
And OF COURSE, read James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, written in 1963. Read. It. Now.
Delete the word colorblind from your vocabulary. It is problematic. Just throw the whole word away unless you’re referring to someone’s actual physical inability to visually see colors correctly.
When someone says they don’t see skin color, I always mentally (and sometimes physically, haha!) roll my eyes. For real! When someone says they’re colorblind, to me that’s saying, “I choose to not see racism and recognize its existence because we are all humans.” Yes, we are all human, but MY skin color directly affects me in America. It just does. History tells us and shows us plenty of that. “But we are all God’s children and we are all humans.” That’s obvious and that’s something else people say. However, racism, institutionalized racism, and systemic racism, directly affect black people. More people need to recognize and accept this for what it is and take off the privilege-induced veil over their eyes. Our differences affect us socially, economically, and politically. Saying you’re colorblind isn’t sending a helpful message to us.
Talk about black history with your children at home. You never know what thoughts or unanswered questions they have. Unfortunately, there are few classrooms that dive into in depth conversations about this.
If you have black history related events in your area, attend them!
Please. Please. Please…do not say there needs to be a White History Month. To add to that, if you hear someone white talking negatively about Black History Month, take that as an opportunity to say why Black History Month is important.
When you’re talking to black people, listen more than you talk. This is important.
So yea, these are just a few things you can do. Black History Month continues to show us that the past and the present are still, and will always be, connected.