I loved history class so much back in high school, some of my fellow classmates started calling me “Mr. History” without the ironic undertones it implies. But the way my mind is set up, it was difficult for me to separate American History with American Present as I put together the pieces of how the impact of the ancestor’s actions continue to be reinforced to this day. A simmering anger lingered for a while, and then I convinced myself that I must be mistaken because no one else was feeling this way — at least they weren’t talking about it. But after August 9th, people have begun putting words to what I was feeling back in the early 90’s. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned since then:
1) Black Lives Matter
I remember when the first Hunger Games movie came out and a vocal contingent of white people were quiet upset to learn that Rue (although accurately described in the book) was a little black girl. One person went so far as to say “I don’t even feel so bad about Rue dying now.” This society does not teach the value of black life — quite the opposite. Black people have been disposable since the nation’s inception and at no time has our basic humanity been aggressively defended by this country. The devaluation of black life is so pervasive it has become CONTROVERSIAL to say ‘black lives matter’ to some, who believe they are doing good by changing it to “all lives matter.” Of course this overlooks fact that removing ‘black’ from the phrase is discounting the intention of it’s creation and reinforcing its necessity.
2) “White Supremacy must end”
I used to consider ‘white supremacy’ a kind of taboo sort of thing. A mindset that happens on the fringes of society — like “Remy” from Higher Learning. But what I’ve learned over the last several months, what I knew decades ago but couldn’t really comprehend, is how white supremacy is the driving cultural, economic and political force of this country. The idea that white history, white achievement, and white culture is the only thing worth teaching and celebrating to any significant degree is clear to anyone who would bother taking a look. Which plays directly into the hands of devaluing black life by creating and constantly feeding an unconscious belief in all things white.
3) Crabs in a Barrel
If you’re black then I’m sure you’ve heard various variations of this phrase throughout your life. It always struck me a little weird when I’d hear it…I couldn’t argue with why it was being said but something was always off. And then I came across the thoughts contained in this article. I will paraphrase here:
“The observation then sparks the question, why? Could it be that a barrel is not their natural habitat so everything is out of sync. Could it be that as a result of being removed from their natural element, behavior is erratic and quite honestly the crabs in this new environment with other caught crabs simply don’t know what to do, hence wildly scurrying for perceived safety, crawling all over one another as a last attempt to live.”
Judging the behavior of the displaced, disenfranchised, and vehemently disliked while using the value metrics of those who do the displacing, disenfranchising and disliking is foolish at best but severely harmful in practice. Instead of focusing on the crabs in the barrel, let’s focus on why they are there and what is happening to them because of their displacement.
Which brings me to
4) Respectability Politics
I don’t know if I’d heard of this term prior to August, but it sure would have come in handy back in 1992. Respectability Politics is the often touted assumption that if ‘black people would just act right, then white people would give them the respect they deserve.’ There are so many things wrong with this mindset that I can’t begin to get into, but just the idea that black people have to dance and cower to the same societal standards (white supremacy) that serve to dehumanize them is so overwhelmingly misguided to me that I feel like anyone who proposes it is inherently disingenuous.
That’s all I’m going to get into today…what about you? What have you learned since August 9th?