So, I feel the need to add my two cents to the Black History month conversation.
By listening to what black people have to say.
Give it a try!
I decided to write this post in reaction to comments on this article by Erika D. Smith about an Indianapolis a lunch menu served at a private local school to honor Black History Month. I won’t repeat any of the comments but here’s part of what Erika said:
My guess is the good folks at Park Tudor didn’t think about all of this when they decided to put fried chicken and collard greens on their menu for Black History Month. But I can assure you, every black person who has seen that menu has. The stereotype hits close to home and it stings.
This is what racism is. It’s about history. It’s about emotions. It’s about context. It’s about a lack of respect for what others feel.
It’s not necessarily about intentions. Having good intentions does not guarantee a good reaction. But in the end, it’s how we react to those reactions that matters most. Will we point fingers at others, close our ears and yell that they’re being too sensitive? Or will we quiet our egos for a moment, listen to others’ points of view and come to a new understanding?
I’m gonna list some more things below that are worth your attention.
You can read some stuff by Roxane Gay, who consistently blows me away with her thoughts on race, pop culture, and well, everything. She has recipes on her blog, answers questions, just generally hangs out being awesome. Here are some thoughts about the Jordan Davis verdict:
I didn’t know much about North Omaha growing up, but on Saturdays, my mom took me there to get my hair done because she didn’t know how to do it. That’s when I first saw black people other than my family, or Haitians. And I saw how different that neighborhood was from mine—run down, abandoned but not. I was too young to understand that I was seeing American poverty and segregation. As I got older, the stories began about North Omaha, as this dangerous, gang infested place. It was strange to hear these stories, because I never saw that North Omaha. I saw the kind women who had beautiful hairdos and smelled like cocoa butter and did my hair and told me stories, and hushed me when the relaxer started burning, and who laughed with my mother as they talked about things I was too young to understand. I was also too young to understand how lucky I was to live in a manicured suburb where my biggest struggle was white kids wanting to “touch my hair.” Privilege is a motherfucker and only now, as an adult, do I truly understand.
I want to say I am angry but what I feel is past anger. It’s a lonelier place than that, tinged with exhaustion, or weariness but what a shameful luxury it is to be in this place, to have the time to ponder injustice instead of living with it in the brutal ways so many people around the world do.
You could read Ta-Nehisi Coates, who I love so much. He is amazing and he loves oatmeal. Here he talks a bit about the ways black people raise their sons in America. He is smarter than all of us.
Last Thursday, I took my son to meet Lucia McBath, because he is 13, about the age when a black boy begins to directly understand what his country thinks of him. His parents cannot save him. His parents cannot save both his person and his humanity. At 13, I learned that whole streets were prohibited to me, that ways of speaking, walking, and laughing made me a target. That is because within the relative peace of America, great violence—institutional, interpersonal, existential—marks the black experience. The progeny of the plundered were all around me in West Baltimore—were, in fact, me. No one was amused. If I were to carve out some peace myself, I could not be amused either. I think I lost some of myself out there, some of the softness that was rightfully mine, to a set of behavioral codes for addressing the block. I think these talks that we have with our sons—how to address the police, how not to be intimidating to white people, how to live among the singularly plundered—kill certain parts of them which are as wonderful as anything. I think the very tools which allow us to walk through the world, crush our wings and dash the dream of flight.
Seventeen-year-old Tonisha Owens stared wide-eyed at the faded script on an 1854 letter. It was once carried by another 17-year-old — a slave named Frances. The letter was written by a plantation owner’s wife to a slave dealer, saying that she needed to sell her chambermaid to pay for horses. But Frances didn’t know how to read or write, and didn’t know what she carried.
“She does not know she is to be sold. I couldn’t tell her,” the letter reads. “I own all her family and the leave taking would be so distressing that I could not.”
The thought of that girl carrying that letter is one of the most heartbreaking things I can think of.