So it’s Black History Month once again. For those of you who haven’t really “done” the whole Black History Month thing before, this is required reading:
So, for those of you who are unaware, tomorrow marks the start of Black History Month. I am so not looking forward to this. Since this year is a leap year, I have 29 of whitewashed history and white people complaints and tears to look forward to. Hip hip hoo-fucking-ray. I fucking hate Black History Month with a god damn passion.
In school, it was nothing but a fucking joke. The history teacher would pull out a specialized lesson plan for a few weeks. We would do reports on the same few people and hear the same bullshit stories. If you were lucky, you might have watched a movie.
I love Black history. Real Black history is a thing of beauty. When you learn about what Black people really had to face, you see that it’s a damn near miracle that we’re still in this country and surviving. The whitewashing that goes down during Black History Month is a damn shame. It’s not bad enough that we have the shortest fucking month of the year, but you have to dilute our history too???
I just want this to be over already. If you’re Black in America, February is probably not a good month for you.
I will add my own list of complaints about how Black History Month is handled. We will inevitably be treated to a number of (overlapping) lists of things that black people have invented. I could not possibly care less about who cultivated peanuts or invented the straightening comb and the traffic light. I’m more interested in actual history. Narratives. Stories. Experiences. Instead we get a “hey look, here’s a list of black people that have done a thing.” How utterly banal and useless.
Two years ago, I wrote a series of Facebook notes (this was in my pre-blog days) for Black History Month. Those notes formed the underpinning of the race discussions on this blog, which was launched the following month:
- What is “black”? Part 1: skin colour
- What is “black”? – Part 2: self-identity
- What is “black”? – Part 3: my working definition
- “The N Word”
- “Polite” Racism
- Three steps towards ending black-white racism
Last year, I took a cursory look at black history in Canada:
- Black History in Canada moment: British Columbia
- Black history in Canada moment: the prairies
- Black history in Canada moment: Ontario
- Black history in Canada moment: the maritimes
This year I thought of picking up a biography of a black Canadian and working my way through it. But then I got high. Well, the real story is that by the time I got myself organized to go to the bookstore, I realized that the only way to get a biography of a black Canadian is to order one online. Chapters doesn’t have a particularly robust section on black history – all its history books are folded into the ‘community’ section, along with books on commentary and contemporary black issues. While they have a large display for Valentine’s Day (what could be more romantic than a book? I dunno… anything?), they don’t appear to even recognize the existence of Black History Month. Which is depressing, but utterly unsurprising.
So what I did instead was pick up this book by Joseph Mensah, who has done a far more scholarly job than I can hope to chronicling black history and how it informs our contemporary experience. I am going to be working my way through it and post my reactions and thoughts. I’m hoping that this experience will have the effect that studying black history is supposed to have – informing and changing my outlook on contemporary black experiences.
Also, this Sunday I will be leading a discussion with the BC Humanist’s Association on how black history informs our contemporary attitudes on race. I have been told that the discussion will be recorded, so when I get my hands on the video I’ll post it here.
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By the way, if anyone wants to get me a present, I would love to find a decent text on pre-colonial African history. According to most libraries and bookstores I’ve ever been to, African people came into existence when the first Europeans showed up. Somehow I doubt that’s actually the case.