February 3, 2009

That Obligatory Black History Post

Why he's so mad for? Why he gotta have it?
Cause I slaved my whole life, now I'm the master

-Kanye West, "Swagger Like Us"

"Xands..." you ask fearfully, checking my pulse. "This title says 'black history post'. Why the hell are you quoting Kanye West?"

And you'd be right to be worried, but I swear I'm going to explain my sudden lapse of reasoning. I haven't been feeling very substantial this week but suddenly I'm reinvigorated!

As we know, February is Black History Month...I think I like the alternative, Black History Awareness Month. I like the "awareness" bit. It's one thing to just know history--but if you aren't aware and aren't able to apply it daily well then...

Every year without fail I get someone, usually white, perplexed and distressed out of their mind--perhaps even wringing their hands--asking me, "Oh Xands, why do blacks get a history month?! You'd all be offended if whites had a history month!"



EVERY GODDAMN YEAR someone asks me that question, and it doesn't seem like simple explanations are ever enough. Try it, I'm serious. Next time someone asks you why there's a black history month, don't even give them an in depth answer. Just say something like, "Well because every other month is white history month." Do some sarcastic air quotes. They'll turn from "understanding" to "scoffing" real quick. Or maybe it's just my so-called friends. I think it might be the air quotes that get's em riled.

I find myself quite sensitive around February for that very same goddamn reason. You know, if you don't particularly care for the month, well don't do anything for it. It's not like MLK Day, Presidents Day, Labor Day...you still go about business as usual. Don't learn anything about black people in the world. Go about your usual day. It's not hard.

But do not, under any circumstances, ask me or your black friend and expect to get some miraculous in-depth answer that will explain the universe, damnit. You will get a simple one, and it will be so simple that it has clearly flown over your head.

I tried that "because it's white history month every other month" response a few times, and usually I'm called stupid or ignorant, first to my surprise and then to my extreme cynicism and lack of faith in anyone/anything. I come to expect it. What is it, ask a stupid question get a stupid answer? Yeah.

You gotta have a fever for somethin' good, come on y'all... Q-Tip, "Fever"

Alright then, enough grandstanding, why then? Why are blacks sooo special that we get our own month to learn about ourselves? As much as I get tired of repeating this shit, I will say it every month all year until it finally starts sinking in; until folks stop giving me that blank look about February when I say I'm heading up to the Culp center for a seminar on racism & hip hop (well, I'll probably never stop catching flak for that); until folks stop scratching their heads over Women's History, Hispanic Heritage Month, GLBT History month, and stop wondering why white folks don't get everything.

Right? Well. It's the way you treat us. Okay? See, that was easy. What do I mean? Well shit, it's no secret that history books are only just being rewritten to include more achievements by those of us not white straight males. Accurately. Blacks weren't slaves forever until the Civil War and then jump into the 60s. Women didn't just vanish until WWII then cue feminism. Chinese have been in the country forevers and evers. I mean really.

Oh but it's not just history books that are being re-written, every year literature anthologies get updated to include women, blacks, chinese, japanese, mexicans, native americans...art books, there was something between Eurocentric Renaissance art then, you know, cue Modernism, Post Modernism, Futurism.

You'll never understand why things are the way they are now without history. I assume most of us here would agree with that, but when it comes to learning about a certain group's history that fact seems to break down and it's all "Reeeally, a whole moonth? *weep*"

So that's really it. Black History Awareness, you either do it or you don't. You either get it or you don't. I'm at the point in my life where if someone asks me to explain this phenomenon one more time I might actually resort to physical violence (just sayin). But I'm recommending, if you've never done it, that you at least try to comprehend, and learn about black history be you black, white, native, anything in between.

As a side note, I didn't bother even going there with why BHA is in February, 28/9 days, the damn suckiest day of the year. Not even gonna go there... it does fail though.


  1. I have seen nothing besides this post in honor of Black history month, this is sad. I am gonna put something together.

  2. That would be nice! But yeah, I've noticed that more people are feeling Black History Month less and less :/ after the past couple of years I can definitely understand, but it's still sad I think...


Please share some knowledge. Or amuse me at least :O