Do you still care about Black History Month?
My younger brother posed this question to me one day after a very long week. I looked up from devouring my dinner of tender salmon and steamed vegetables.
Do I still care about Black History Month? I thought as I tried to decipher whether or not he was joking. I waited for him to break into a smile and laugh off his question.
He was serious.
Black History Month! Is the sky blue? Do fish swim in the sea? Are gas prices high in Connecticut? These are some thoughts racing in my mind as I placed my fork on the table. Yummy salmon and vegetables had to wait. I needed to explore his thinking more.
Some of his questions:
Why did they give us the shortest month of the year?
Why don’t we celebrate Black History Month in the same month we celebrate MLK?
I answered his questions with a question: Do you know the history of Black History Month?
Nah, he retorted.
I strongly suggest you look into the history.
I then began to tell him that yes I care about Black History Month.
Black history is American history. It is intertwined within the fabric of this nation. If all lives were truly valued and if justice were truly blind in this country and if black folks weren’t stolen from their homeland and brought to other parts of the world as enslaved people then maybe there wouldn’t be a need for Black History Month.
But-that’s not the case.
America (and the whole world) has a complicated history with black people.
Not too long ago we as a people were not recognized as being fully human. Our lives were (and in some ways still are) treated as less valuable than our white counterparts.
This lack of recognition forced many before us to encounter trauma that has transcended time. Those scars from years ago are not really scars but actually wounds that continually reopen and bleed generation after generation.
So yes, younger brother: I do still care about Black History Month.
I’ll continue to care about it as we encounter black people happily bleaching their skin.
I’ll continue to care about it as young black boys and young black girls shy away from loving the hair that grows naturally from their scalp.
I’ll continue to care about it as we idolize beauty standards that reject broad noses and tightly coiled hair.
I’ll continue to care about it as black women are accused of always being angry .
I’ll continue to care about it as bi-racial children are fetishized.
I’ll continue to care about it is as the stereotype of the one-dimensional over-sexualized black woman continues to flourish in main stream America.
I’ll continue to care about it as black women continue to die at a higher rate than white women during childbirth.
I’ll continue to care about it as our black children are being labeled as unruly and stubborn for the same behavior that is labeled strong willed and independent in their white counterparts.
I’ll continue to care about it as young black boys are shot dead in the streets for playing with a toy gun at a park while young white boys are brought into custody alive after killing black folks in a place of worship.
I’ll continue to care about it as many express surprise with the way I speak the English language.
I’ll continue to care about it as some white educators speak to me recklessly about what they believe is a “lack of love and care” black parents have for their “hard to teach” black children.
The reality is: I’ll continue to care until the day I die.