Wednesday, February 23, 2011

African Americans Must Reclaim Black History Month

How did we allow it to devolve into a celebration of handpicked and anointed heroes, stripped of their historical relevance and made into hollow representations of themselves?
By: Mychal Denzel Smith
Posted: February 12, 2011 at 12:14 AM

I remember the first time I was called a nigger. It was during sixth-grade phys ed class, after a disappointing game of touch football. One of my white classmates took offense at my aggressive style of play, and I took offense to him shoving me in response. When I confronted him, verbally berating him with every curse word I knew, he retaliated by calling me a nigger.

My fists clenched on their own as the adrenaline coursed through my veins and my steps became quicker, all thoughts of peaceful conflict resolution tabled for the moment. The only thing that saved him from an epic beating that day was a girl from another class witnessing my pursuit and swiftly moving to restrain me, my fists and my emotions.

I recall another, less volatile, childhood memory that was instrumental to informing my ideas about race and racial identity. Conversations on myriad topics took place on the school bus I rode as a high school student, and race, as thorny as it may have been, was never excluded.

There was a set of white twin girls who seemed obsessed with looking and acting "black," as far as they understood the concept. They had no shame in asking the black students what would be required of them to achieve their goal. They asked me -- but with hesitancy, because they presumed I was biracial: "You're not all the way black, are you? You don't talk like it."

It's no accident that these memories come to me most vividly during Black History Month. Every year, as the first of February rolls around, it brings renewed discussions about the purpose, necessity (or lack thereof) and viability of Black History Month, conversations that are surely intensifying in the age of Obama.
(continued at the Root)

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