1.31.2006

Au Revoir de L'Histoire

Coretta Scott King died today. I don't know why, but it affected me more than the death of Rosa Parks. I think perhaps because she just made an appearance at a remembrance for Dr. King. I'm probably a lot more realistic than most when it comes to the issue of death. I dealt with a lot of it very early. So its not like I saw her and thought she would be around forever. I guess because it was either her only or one of a few appearances since her stroke and mild heart attack in August. She appeared stately. To me that was a sign of recovery.

However I think the greater issue is what the title suggests. Saying good-bye to our history. One of my greatest fears is that more of our history will disappear along with the history makers and recorders and the people they lived their lives with. That's why this is one of my favorite sites. Its an opportunity to capture our history before the stories die with the people. Granted Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks were two of the most well-known Black women of the Civil Rights Movement. For the most part, their stories have been told. But how many other stories are dying untold every day? How many countless stories have we already lost?

It keeps me up at night. I know that's crazy but if I'm passionate about nothing else, its about Black history. It is very appropriate that I write this today on the eve of Black History Month. A lot of people have jumped on the "I hate Black History Month" bandwagon because its very chic to hate BHM now. You're not a truly forward thinking negro unless you boycott the idea of Black History Month. Let's not forget the history. Black History Month came to be because too many Black children were going through life with history books which included merely a paragraph or chapter about slavery in a 350 page history book. In most cases slavery was depicted as a benevolent event where slaves were rarely beat, enjoyed themselves, and had wonderful relationships with their masters. That's if there was any mention of the people who built this country with their blood, sweat, and tears.

Carter G. Woodson created "Black History Week" to try to overcome the disparity between our history and the books in hopes of delivering our history to our people. So we would know how much Black people have accomplished and invented and who we are beyond 400 years of forced labor. The week was later expanded to Black History Month. That's why its in the shortest month of the year, not because of racism. Do you think in the 1960s, 1970s and possibly even 1980s, there would have been a lot of white willingness to accept ANY month as BHM, regardless of its length? Now think back to 1926 when the week was created. Take the time to really comprehend that. How many books and dolls and stores do you think had black faces? The ones about criminals? Sound familiar? Seen anything like this today?

One things that pisses me off is that my mother attended her first integrated school in the 10th grade. My mother was born in 1955. One year after the Brown v. Board of Education decision. That means my mother should have never attended a segregated school. These schools were separate and inherently unequal. Junior year in high school, my AP American History teacher told me he doesn't remember any racism growing up in Asheboro, NC. He's the same age as my mother. Then he proceeded to tell us how he had a black friend who took him to the gym at the black school. He saw the old, beat apart books, the raggedy gym with holes in the floor, and all the other subpar materials Blacks were supposed to use to get an equal opportunity. How that does not constitue racism I'll never know. But that also goes back to the whole slavery thing. I knew a lot of white people growing up in the suburbs. I grew up in a neighborhood with 500 homes where you could count the number of Black families on one hand. We were one of the first 50 families in the neighborhood. Every white person I've ever known who has spoken to me about the issue of slavery claims their family (if they admit to have slaveowners in their ancestry) treated their slaves well. I just don't think its possible. EVERYone treated their slaves well? I don't think so. We will never be able to escape the pain of our collective history as Americans until we are willing to own up to the mistakes.

Yes, my mother was born in Mississippi, and yes my teacher was born in North Carolina. But the South wasn't much slower or less willing than the rest of the United States to allow race mixing. Please do not fall into the naivete that is required to believe Northern whites were so much more willing to allow integration than Blacks. Integration was not well accepted anywhere for a long time.
The day I graduated from high school was an eye opener for me. Not for the obvious reason. I think graduation ceremonies are a ridiculous waste of time. I do not care to hear what some random person whose name I will most likely forget before the graduation money is spent, has to say. It was an eye opener because there was a white guy I considered my friend. He seemed reasonably aware of life and its realities. First he pissed me off because he asked me why I would go to a 4-year university when I could just as easily go to a 2-year school and get the same degree. Don't question my motives. We were never that good of friends.

Then he tells me he can go to his school, graduate, and come out making more money than me. I said, "Well, you're a white male, so you would come out doing that anyway." He said, "Don't say that. That's not true anymore." I said, "Excuse me?" He repeated himself and tried to argue me down. Yes, the gap has shrunken, but Black people generally still make only 80% of their white counterparts. And women do not make what men do, although Black women ordinarily make more than Black men. Somehow in all of his interactions with Black people, he still managed to miss the point. Racism and prejudice are not dead. Its a problem that may never be solved. But if we are not working toward it, who will? If we are not willing to document our history, why should anyone else? So today in saying good-bye to Coretta Scott King, I hope we are not also saying good-bye to our greatest responsibility in knowing our legacy. Not just the legacy of the King family but more importantly, the legacy of people of African descent, as widely varied as that term is across the diaspora, and Blacks in America.

16 comments:

*Madosi said...

so much of our history is being loss today!

it makes me wonder ...

coretta is a great example of being committed and married to the cause ...

Ejoy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ejoy said...

ok...I have to bring n a good example of writing next class about whatever I want...I knew I was going to use you because I value what you are saying and also think you are not a good, but excellent writer. And even more exciting: It is packed full of a message for everyone(especially at a white school) about blacks. So, thank you..this came right on time

T Dot said...

I completely feel what you're saying, Jameil. And you said it wonderfully. I'm kinda getting discouraged because I'm trying to find black stories in the area I cover. I did a census search - there's 45 black people in the whole city. It just completely blew me. Our history is being lost and in some places, it seems like no one cares. Thanks for helping me remember that there are still some people who think black history is important.

T Dot said...

My bad, who KNOW black history is important.

CNEL said...

All I can say is Amen. Lamartine said, "History teaches everything including the future." It is so important that we teach the younger generations about their heritage, and continue to educate ourselves as well. How can we have a sense of identity? How can we live without knowing who we are, and whose we are? We owe so much of who we are today, to those forerunners who came before us. It's sad news to have to think about that being the loss of Mrs. King, but I hope people will realize that she was a Civil Rights leader in her own right. We'll have to mourn her loss and be saddened by it, but be gladdened in knowing all that she was able to do for us.

"N" Search of Ecstasy said...

I posted on this to today. I was really shocked and saddened this morning when I heard this.

Karamale said...

you cover a lot of turf with this post, but i will say that it's sad to hear that people of color would "boycott" black history month, not at all knowing the history of it as you elucidated, but still wear abercrombie & fitch or some other bullshit like that. wake the fuck up, people. that being said, both my parents attended segregated schools through college, and i am now hastened to capture their stories as they both are well into their 60s. i have to be realistic about that, myself.

Chris said...

On point as usual. My mother's high school, which was the first black high school in Delaware, didn't intergrate until 1978, six years after she graduated, and that was only because of a State Supreme Court order that made busing legal.

As much as we bitch and moan about the Status Quo of BHM, what good is it going to do if we don't take steps to change it? Why don't we dig deeper into our history to find out who we are, what we represent and how many other ways we've helped to build this country? Well Pinky, the world may never know.

M-Dubb said...

complacency has set in. It's up to us (those with the influence) to make people see the light when it comes to their heritage - and it's importance.

This is why I love my job!

spchrist said...

(giving a standing ovation!)

Rell said...

It's very sad that people of color don't want black history month.

The reason we have it is because as of right now what our ancestors did, what blacks have done in the past isn't taught in the regular dogma that is US history. If they did that -- there wouldn't be a need.

But they don't, so there is.

Accomplice said...

great post! we do need to remember our history and keep it alive because if we don't, no one else will.

So...Wise...Sista said...

Brava!

I can literally feel the tides changing...the shift. Latinos are the new minority of choice. October TV programming will soon be as brown as February is Black (media in Feb are among my fav things to observe). But as the world becomes more diverse, we are being led to believe that this means a new day for race relations. That because there are black millionaires, bec of Denzel and Halle, that we're suddenly in the clear. Mrs. King took on new issues like AIDS and gay rights. She evolved with the times, as we must too!

jameil1922 said...

thanks dahlings!!

MEP said...

Really great post, Jameil. I really enjoyed it. The last part really rung true to me too. I grew up in a small, White town in the Midwest and every guy (and most of the colonized native women) that I grew up with thinks that racism isn't a problem anymore and that women shoud stop whining. They need Black History Month (potentially more, b/c they know so little about it) as much as anyone - but I barely remember celebrating it when I was in school. Didn't really learn much about that stuff during school (until college) except from a select few teachers who were more aware, I guess. That's really sad, actually.