Black History Month is the seminal event of conscience in America. Why? Black history is not just about inventions, sports and music. Black history rightly tells about a blatant disregard and total disrespect for human life-and, thankfully, how we’ve overcome.
Those who try to forget, dilute, diminish or make Black History Month politically correct are actually struggling with their “darker” side. I mean, what’s really so excluding and politically incorrect about black history? American history is not just about the folk who came here seeking a better way of life by way of Ellis Island but also those delivered involuntarily on these shores by way of Jamestown, 400 years ago. Is it really too painful to remember the sordid ideological history of race (including Irish, Italian, Polish, Latino, Asian, etc.) in America, especially the “black” race? I use the term “black” in this instance over and against African-American because the term “black” is a socio-political construct that is only partially genetic. Being black is not so much about how you look as it is about how you act. How you walk. How you talk. Your music. Your cookin’. How one “gets down.” If you “look” white and let it be known that you’re really black … we say OK. But if you look black and act white while disliking (or self-loathing) your “phenotypical facticity,” well then black folk got terms for folks like that-the first one is “sell-out.”
Black folk don’t have a color test for blackness. But white folk do. In America you can’t look black and say you’re white, but again you can look white and say you’re black. Get it? White Supremacy vs. Black Inferiority. Lies. Lies. Lies. In a book called Mein Kampf, it is stated that “if you tell a people a lie often enough they will eventually believe it is the truth.”
I can deconstruct the color adjectives that prefix the concepts of “supremacy” and “inferiority,” understanding that the adjectives flesh out the idea(s) that one group is intrinsically better than another. The terms “black,” “white,” and “race” are socio-political constructs. In the same vein, “rich” and “poor” are socio-economic constructs. So now you have the natural supremacy of the rich and the intrinsic inferiority of the poor. In other words we create negative constructs to justify the devaluation and discounting of human life.
Of course, Black History month reminds America of its history of placing a price on human life through the institution of slavery. This is a lesson to be remembered, not one to be forgotten or shamefully avoided.
Respect for life is the noble lesson this dedicated month of February teaches us all. Changing your name but not your color doesn’t get you any respect in a pigmentocracy/colortocracy. We found that out in the ’70s. Changing your religion without changing your heart becomes another exercise in futility. People who practice the same religion still hurt one another. Look at the Middle East. Look in your own house of worship. Black History teaches that in order to overcome a culture of disrespect and lies you must learn to become committed to a life of respect and an unwavering respect for life.
Sadly however, it seems there is still a price being placed on human life. Remember the line from the book Mein Kampf? If you keep lying to the people, they will eventually believe the lie is truth. Now I don’t know what is going to happen by the time this column is published, but I do know this: If the Cook County Board cuts health care service because it costs too much to heal the sick, then I know the culture of the board is one of lies and disrespect.
Do we really have black folk on the county board who look black but ain’t? Have we actually elected folk too white to be black and too black to be white and are therefore confused until the dominant culture informs them what color it’s OK to be?
Stop using the poor as political pawns. Stop justifying lying as a political means to an ignoble end. Unlearn the historic lessons of oppression that black history holds so boldly to the light. Show some respect. Respect yourself. Respect the people who elected you. Respect life.
R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Black History Month stands in towering judgment over powerful people with paper hearts who respect what a person costs rather than who a person is. God help us all.