I have mixed feelings about Black History Month. On one hand, I’m proud that there has been some progress to the point of recognizing my people as human beings. On the other hand, there's this almost lack of respect for it. Although I understand the significance, and what it represented initially, it’s just another symbol to make those in power feel good about yesterday. It feels like selective celebrated blackness to me.
Ralph Waldo Ellison said in Invisible Man, “I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in a circus sideshow, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass.” Without disrespecting those who fought for this month and its representation, while being honest, it's stale. Invisible Man was published in 1952. I still fight today to be seen and heard. It makes BHM seem disingenuous—or at least inaccurate—as to where we are, something we must approach honestly to get honest results.
My blackness—its history, its roots, its splendor, its excellence, its strength, its resilience— is all rolled together, and wherever I go, it goes. But I was trained how to “tone it down” and filter it so it wouldn’t offend others. My voice isn't heard authentically, it's filtered through America's whiteness. Systemic racism is just as unjust as outright slavery, but yet, it's only conveniently addressed.
Racism is still prevalent, just more coded these days. I was racially profiled and pulled over a little more than a month ago. I was interrogated roadside in the Bronx, and still to this day, I haven’t received any record of the stop, nor was I given a reason. When facing these age-old issues, it's hard to bask in the hope of tomorrow’s progress.
I'd much rather my ancestors be celebrated and respected through progress. There was no healing or reckoning after slavery, only “progress.” In this time of wokeness, I'd like to see black life celebrated in a way that addresses generational issues born from slavery.
At every stage of my life, I've encountered blatant racism that hugely impacted my views on life and people. So to be conscious of where we are, and while I once looked at Black History Month as a symbol of progress, it’s lost its effectiveness. With all that said, I do understand that it does stand as a pertinent symbol of hope for others, and if for nothing else, I respect that fact.
I understand that I am bearing the flag of my people, and how I show up is reflected on my tribe. Because of this, I'm intentional in working to change the narrative. I work in my community to strengthen ourselves from the inside, through supporting one another’s creative pursuits and providing resources to each other. I continue to speak up about policies that impact us. And through Defy, I support other individuals who have been unjustly targeted by the justice system.