Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Black History Month
today's the first day of black history month!!
yay!! lets all recite the 8 names we remember from all the previous black history months...and move on with the rest of the months being as eurocentric as they've always been.
the question of "is black history month necessary?" is bound to pop up either on some CSPAN event, Tavis Smiley show, or ridiculous BET special (FUCK BET! imma read a book! ha...i'll get on that later). so, i thought i'd address the question too.
i think we do need a Black History Month, only because we do not have enough of it in our everyday lives; year-round. if we did, then a month like this would be unnecessary.
but our public schooling, specifically, is highly Eurocentric. leaving high school, i think all i knew was through a Eurocentric lens, unbeknownst to me. science, religion, the discovery of our country, literature...everything. how many African, Arab, Mexican, South American, Native American or Asian scientists could i name? explorers? religious figures? revolutionaries? nonexistent.
it truly is sad how little i know, just about South America and Mexico, for example. after we learn about the states that were a part of Mexico, that were later added to the United States, its almost as if South America and Mexico dropped off the map. it really wasn't until the last year that i learned ridiculously basic things like....mexico has 31 states, that not all people south of the border practice the same holidays, that some of the indigenous peoples spoke a language known as Nahuatl (actually, i just did a google search of "indigenous mexican languages" to make sure i was spelling the language right...and they actually have 60 indigenous languages!!), also that about 90% of enslaved Africans during the slave trade went to the West Indies and South America, not to the United States. i'm JUST learning these things.
i'll admit, i was a crappy student (still am), but i was/am a crappy student because i never studied for any tests, or did homework, not because i didn't absorb any of the knowledge that was being taught.
and this is sad. its sad how little i know about...pretty much everywhere other than North America, and how what i do know is usually from a westerner that didn't know enough to know that being a westerner made everything they know about the world....western. for example, African religions. African religions and philosophies are some of the most interesting, and many people refer to ALL the traditional religions of Africa as "animism". but, there are literally hundreds of religions, all with different thoughts on theology, different looks at time, at the future, at fate; they have different rituals, and some are mixed with Christianity, and some with Islam. there are too many religions/philosophies with such complexity that an outsider cannot usually decipher even after an in-depth study to include all of them under the umbrella of "animism". the word "animism" is a fairly baseless word whose definition is obtuse enough to fit even Christianity. why didn't i learn about their religions, their customs, their TRILLIONS of cultures, languages, various dialects of those languages, and ethnicities while in school?
and on another level, i rarely learned about the depth at which slavery effected those that we enslaved, and their descendants. and i could tell you i really didn't care about Black History Month, nor the knowledge that was just being thrown at me. my sentiments were "okay...Sojourner Truth was a black woman....Harriet Tubman helped a bunch of people to the north...people were whipped and made to work....and MLK held sit-ins." thats IT. the worst, i thought, of slavery was that people were sometimes separated from their family, they were whipped, and made to work long hours. that was the WORST of it, i thought. i had no idea that enslaved women being raped was a common occurrence, that those female children of slave masters and enslaved women were likely to then be raped by their own half-brothers, that men were often castrated, that their genitals and finger tips were often saved after they were lynched as souvenirs-being cut off shortly after or before death, that we were thought of as sub-human; inferior-not just by some people, but by the majority of prominent scientists and anthropologists of the time, the depth at which this has completely fucked up gender, parental and every other relationship within the black community as well as black and white relations...i could go on for days about the things i didn't know about slavery and the struggle. we're led to believe that the worst of slavery was physical enslavement. but it wasn't. it was the MENTAL enslavement....that continues until this day, really.
so back to the question (because i could go on a 5 page tangent about how little i learned while in school about non-European countries and peoples)....on one hand i do think it is necessary because of the lack of knowledge we have, but on the other, i think the way we teach children about Black History needs to be revised. throwing out facts and names and dates is pointless. i could name Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, MLK, Fredrick Douglass, and Booker T. Washington, but what could i say of their conditions? their feelings? the impact it had on them as human beings? i couldn't. Black History became another thing i had to learn a speech for at church and an easy way for me to get extra credit in school with no deeper meaning. we need to be informing children about what they had to go through more so, what it meant to lose African culture and have to assimilate into a culture that deemed us sub-human. and no, this isn't just the fault of the school system, churches (who largely focus on christian revolutionaries like MLK, but leave out very relevant groups like the Nation of Islam and secular groups like the Black Panthers), and the media, but also our parents. they should pick up where anyone leaves off. but thats assuming even they know the depth at which slavery has effected us.
i think for Black History Month, we should spend time trying to incorporate the histories of everyone that has been left out. go read something about one of the 60 indigenous languages of Mexico, read about the diversity of Brazil and other South American countries, learn about Jainism, Sikhism, and Shinto religions, learn about the Dinka, Igbo, Hutu, Wolof, or Zulu cultures in Africa (or any of the other million tribes), learn about the effects colonialism has left on Mexicans, Africans, South America, and Indonesia, learn about the Aboriginals of Australia and their societies, learn about the varieties of Native American tribes, etcetera etcetera etcetera etcetera....learn about a different culture.
comment. think. read a book. google a people.
and look at those photos i have in this post. they came up when i googled "Black History Month". what the fuck is Spike Lee, Denzel Washington and Michael Jordan doing on a collage with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.? i mean, these men are great in their capacities, but its like being black was the only criteria for having their photo in that collage. because they surely aren't on the same level with what they've done for the struggle. ha, reminds me of a part of The Boondocks on the episode about Thugnificent, where Huey goes into his house trying to get Riley, and he sees this huge painting of Thugnificent with Tupac, Biggie, MLK, and Malcolm X. just because you've made money and have black skin doesn't mean you're anywhere near Malcolm X. sit your ass down...and go home.