Black History Month 2014: Some Thoughts
By: Kai M. Green
Black History month is intimately connected to the lives and stories of everyday Black people. The goal of Black History month is to validate the knowledges and stories of Black people, stories which are often erased and/or invalidated by Eurocentric accounts of history. It was a month to reeducate the country and the world on the value of Black life. Black History month was conceived of as celebratory, but this month I don’t feel so celebratory.
A Not So Brief (But Still Incomplete) Timeline of My Black History Month 2014:
02/26: I woke up this morning feeling Black. It was the same Black I felt last month, but perhaps a little Blacker since it is Black History Month.
*I read a beautifully written, thought-provoking, and heart-breaking, blog by, Khadijah Costley White, titled “Remembering Trayvon: On Black Life, Love and Freedom.” White concludes her blog:
So, as we continue to be reminded that the murder of a black boy may never be valued in a legal system that once deemed black folks as less than human, as we collectively grieve for those we lost and those we have yet to lose, this one thought comforts me. He was free. He was loved.
*The fact of blackness is a life intimately tethered to premature death. Black History Month is a celebration of what we have overcome, but it is also a moment to mourn all those Black bodies gone–those lives known and unknown who lived Black History and those lives presently living Black History.
*I still feel some kinda way about Black History month being the shortest month in the year. It feels like shade.
*Shade. The first response to White’s blog:
This is a nice meditation, but it’s not just an issue of black and white, and you trying to make it one alienates people and furthers the divide between black and white…next time, remember that non-black mother’s can love and weep and cry and suffer as well.
*A Black woman tells the truth about the monstrous uniqueness of Black pain and loss in the U.S. and the first response is a condescending chastization. Black truth is an offense to white America.
*Did this respondent forget that it is still Black History Month? I think that this month should be a month where we can all freely use the terms anti-Black racism and white supremacy to name the material conditions of our living.
*The terms “reverse racism” and “pulling the race card” should be suspended, at least for Black History month. Can this be the month that we all agree to tell the truth? Can Black History month be the queer month of “Oh, Hunny, yes, let me give you the T!”
-Yes, the Ugandan anti-gay bill is abhorrent, but don’t be so quick to deem Africa the most homophobic place in the world. Let’s not forget:
*It’s only been 11 years since the U.S. Supreme court reversed Lawrence v. Texas, the law that criminalized sodomy.
*Though the bill was vetoed, it was still proposed that “business owners [gain] the right to refuse service to gay men, lesbians and other people on religious grounds.” This is in Arizona, 2014.
02/20: A Drive through South Central LA.
*Facebook Status: To the cop who pulled me over last night (He said my tail light was out–it’s not–I checked)
But there is no poem I could write that would save a Black boi’s life/There are no words you would hear/ To let you know I’m approaching fear/ Reaching for my papers not a gun/ Don’t pull/ Don’t move too fast/ I love my life/ I love myself
But there is no poem I could write that would save a Black boi’s life/ my very own life/And I can’t see with all those white lights/ And you tell me to roll all the windows down/turn the car off/ And there is an officer to the right/ And it’s just too much light for me to see/ No, I didn’t steal this car/ No, I’ve never been arrested/ No warrants/ No, No, No/I’m a good Black man (And I hate myself for thinking that politics of respectability and my bow-tie or the way I ask permission before making any move might save me) No, I’ve never been to jail/ But my daddy has and my cousin too/So it really don’t matter what you think of me cause I know what you thought of them/guilty historically
And there is no poem that can make innocent the Black boi’s skin/So I play my music loud/ loud/ louder/ louder/ louder/ so loud it’ll make ya ears bleed/ so loud in cracks ankles and bends knees/ so loud/ loud/ loud
And if there is no poem/then here’s my flesh/ here are my screams/ feel my body against yours/ I push back/ I push back/ The poem was the warning and it’s not my fault you never learned how to read…
#angry #Black #Blacklifematters [feeling angry.]
*And after that encounter I was afraid to drive, but I had to pick my partner up from work. She got in the passenger seat. I asked her to drive. She was more feminine and of a lighter complexion. I thought we might be safer that way.
*I understood then, the complex histories of relationships forged between Black men and Black women who simply were trying to figure out how to survive a system that sought to obliterate them—the compromises made, the sharp tongues that were held to preserve Black life.
*I also understand the scream, the moment when tongues become untied and Black rage is unleashed.
02/04: Another Day in South Central LA.
*Facebook Status: Smoke break with TC. Outside. Cops drive up. I think about running. I don’t know why. Man turns corner walking. Walking… Walking faster. Running. Cop gets off bike. Cop chasing. Man running behind me and behind TC. We are shields. I think about running. Cop pulls gun out. I think about running. Other man in car pulls out camera phone. Are you going to shoot? Cop says stop running why are you running? Man can’t stop trying to get away. Cop puts gun away. Tells man to get on ground. He won’t. He can’t run anymore. Cop holds man up against wall. Why were you running? Man I don’t know. I thought about running. Man still won’t get on the ground. More cops come. Cop car collision. Doesn’t matter. 12 cops make man get on the ground. Why are you running? I thought about running. #lapd #truama #wow [feeling overwhelmed.]
*The LAPD ended up letting the man go, but I am still holding on the image. I had never seen a gun pointed in my direction. I froze. It didn’t seem real, that that metal object in that man’s hand could so easily take a life or more.
02/06: It’s not Black History month just yet, but I am Black everyday.
*Facebook Status: So what would you do?
Situation: left my wallet in the car and I had to go back to get it out of the parking garage. Middle aged Black woman walks in just before me. We enter the stairwell together. I’m behind her. I feel her discomfort so I say hello and smile thinking that might help. She grabs her bag tighter. We happen to be parked on the same floor…
#beingablackman #beingaman #beingablackwoman #beingawoman #safety #patriarchy #racism #ilooksuspicious
How can it be undone? [feeling perplexed.]
*Truth is, I might have been afraid of me too. Truth is, I have internalized racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. I have been afraid of my own reflection before.
*I often times believe that the fact of my educational background, or bowtie might protect me from the fact of blackness. This is a farce.
Black History Month 2014 Concluding Statements:
Everyday I feel Black and that is a complicated way of feeling (See W.E.B. DuBois’s Souls, Toni Cade Bambara’s, The Black Woman, Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, Joseph Beam’s, In the Life, or any narrative of Black life whether it be a letter, journal entry, tweet, or facebook status). DuBois described a “second-sight” that Black people had been gifted with—It wasn’t hindsight or foresight, rather it was the ability to see/understand right now, the multidimensional and interlocking structures of power that (re)produce a common-sense logic of whiteness as forever angelic and redeemable. This logic of whiteness is secured through a simultaneous (re)production of a common-sense logic of blackness as forever devalued and always guilty.
I asked my partner to drive that night because she was lighter skinned and feminine–I asked her to protect me.
When she walks outside my house she is often times assaulted by an onslaught of street harassment by Black men. Once she was even followed. Because of this, we try to make sure she doesn’t have to walk alone. I walk with her and my Black masculine presence shields her from a nasty misogyny. The way we use our bodies to protect each other is survival, but it is not sustainable. We have to figure out how to keep ourselves alive for now, but the struggle is not just that. The goal is to bring about a new world order where Black History month is lived everyday through the work of ending anti-Black racism, white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia, sexism, transphobia and… These oppressions are all linked and we cannot do away with one without doing away with the others. We cannot lose our second-sight abilities; in fact we should attempt to further develop this into a multivalent sight. What we are up against is a master narrative of white benevolence and Black criminality. This master narrative is deeply entrenched in the world we traverse today. Our task is to not simply undo what has been done, but we must also create new worlds, new possibilities. We must inevitably become new people.
I agree and affirm Assata Shakur’s declaration:
It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love and protect each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.
Indeed the fight for Black liberation is a fight for all people’s liberation. It is a considerable task and we will definitely need more than a month to execute it.