I originally wanted to post everyday in celebration of 'Black History Month', but rethought that, and I'll write when I'm not feeling so lazy. But recent internet memes and twitter outrages over a Coca Cola commercial has really gotten to me lately
Black History Month, has never meant much to me when I was growing up. It didn't seem to matter. It was almost exclusively a school thing. When that month came around, it was the time that when, generally, only our history teachers prepared a couple of lessons when we learned about the history of 'blacks'. We started off with the usuals, slavery to civil war to civil rights to now. Then we would learn about specific keynotes and people. We'd learn about the underground railroad, emancipation proclamation, Rosa Parks, Uncle Tom's Cabin, then we would generally end with Martin Luther King and his assassination. I never really put that much thought on how important it was or how much impact it had and how it affects us today.
Where I grew up, most people around me were like me, or at least we grew up together. We mostly all lived in the same neighborhood, many of us being either 'black' or latino, or some mix of. There were some 'Asians', but they were mostly business owners or at least older individuals, and there were some white families, but they were few and far in between. Growing up, when we said the pledge of allegiance, we all learned to say it in English and Spanish. We learned both the english and spanish alphabet. Being able to count to 50 in spanish was a requirement. This was normal everyday life in the normal everyday city.
This recently released Coca Cola brought me back to that time.
Then I got to high school, and a lot of what 'everyday life' was was now different. My family and I moved to what was considered to be a 'white neighborhood'. I didn't get what that meant until I started going to school. It was almost like moving to a different planet. Even though I only lived 2 hrs from where I grew up, the difference was night and day.
For one, there were no bars on anyone's windows and not that many screen doors. There weren't giant glass between costumers and tellers at drive thru windows. What I considered to be normal everyday city, they referred to as the ghetto or "Da Hood". Much to my surprise, I no longer spoke English, to them, I spoke Ebonics. Yes, there were people like me and other races I was more familiar with, but now we were all 'minorities'.
Now, Black History Month started to make sense. the month I took for granted for so long, that importance and impact was all becoming clearer. Not only that, but now
we learned some Real Black History along with current events. All those chapters we skimmed over was explored in much greater details, and was often was put into a 'how is this relevant today' perspective. But I think outside of class is where my true appreciation began.
Outside of actual class, we learned that a lot of the students were curious when 'white history month' was going to be. We also learned that a lot of people found it racist that theres a BET, but there was no WET.
I quickly learned during discussions and arguments, a way to discredit and belittle me was to 'Ebonics-up' their speech. They would start adding a lot of phrases like 'yo homie yo' or 'word to ya motha' to their speech, adding a lot of Zs to the end of words that normally end in S, and words like 'the', 'them' and 'that' became 'da', 'dem', and 'dat' respectively. I learned that not only was I unable to 'speak english', but the way I spoke, according to them, was hilarious.
I learned that, according to them, racism was over. This isn't the 1960s anymore and we are all equal. Any illusion of race involvement was just someone pulling the race card. Ironically though, even though we were all equal, it was generally not ok for someone like me to be dating someone like them. They were all colorblind, but a lot of them believed in 'tradition' relationships. Their parents implied bringing home someone like me was a 'no-no', no offense to me of course.
I learned that I was now the representative of 'black' America, and had everything in common with all the 'black' Americans they saw on TV. When someone was curious why 'black people' committed so much crime, I was the first person they would ask. I would often be asked to rap, or asked why rappers wore gold teeth. A very common question I was asked while growing up was "why does nelly wear a band aid under his eye?". And one strange common occurrence, people wanted to touch my hair…..
The more I learned who I really was through their eyes and the more I experienced, the more I started to really appreciate Black History Month, the more I really understood the struggle they went through to get to today. Black History Month allows me to appreciate the differences we have as individuals, and is a constant remind that we all have different back stories that brought us where we are today. Black History month is a constant remind of the struggle any oppressed group goes through for equality. Black History month allows me to really appreciate and enjoy all the differences and similarities cultures have. Black history month is also a reminder of how far we all have come, and how far we still have to travel before we ALL truly become equal and mutually respected.
So I completely understand if Black History Month is lost on you, or if you don't feel the need for a month dedicated Black History. I've reached the point where I'm ok with others indifference or outrage at the month. I only ask that you allow me to enjoy this month, and possibly allow me to share some of my culture with you. From history to entertainment, I might find something you enjoy. And PLEASE consider, that there are others out there who, like me, have their own origins, customs and culture they might be interested in sharing.
*Disclaimer: I do not claim to be representative of all people like me, or have similarities to me. Likewise, I do not make any claim to be unique or special in any way. I will say, however, I am Blessed (for lack of a better word).
Not blessed in the sense that I believe there is a divine entity looking over after me, but blessed in the sense that, I have been around long enough to know, I should not take anything I have for granted. I am a mostly healthy person living in times that allows for someone like me to live a life where success is possible. I suppose 'privileged' might be the world I'm looking for here. Although I grew up in a single parent home, I was fortunate enough to have a hard working parent do above and beyond what was required as both the provider and the 'breadwinner' to give me the opportunities I have today.
AND, I'm terrible at writing, so I apologize for any grammatical problems ahead of time.