Making “Black” History

Today officially begins the celebration of “Black History Month” and with it, a host of special programs that remind older viewers and inform younger ones of the stories, struggles and contributions of African Americans. Persons will make plans to travel to museums and monuments. There will be commercials that will claim to celebrate “Black History Month” while promoting their product or service. It is the American way; a celebration of any kind must be marked by a purchase. These next twenty- nine days may also serve as an opportunity for persons to gather around dinner tables to share their own family’s history, to tell about how they “got over.” 

But, it will also be a time when conversations of us versus them will increase. Some will argue, “We created this or we arrived at that idea first but it was stolen. They never give us credit for anything.” While others will use this month to prove that socially defined black people are better and have done more than any so- called race of people. “Look at what we’ve done and all while the world’s cards were stacked against us! We are stronger and wiser. Black people are the true leaders of the world.” It is a celebration of comparisons, comparisons derived from biased and self- serving judgments. Some will ask, “Well, whose side are you on?” My response will be, “I am on the Lord’s side.” God has no favorite human being and all of time is God’s history.   

I am certain that I will hear again this year, “They gave us the shortest month of the year to celebrate our history.” When, in fact, the creator of “Black History Month” which began as “Negro History and Literature Week,” Dr. Carter G. Woodson, chose the month because both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born in the month of February. There had also been a tradition of celebrating both their births and so Woodson thought that including the celebration of “Negro” history during this time would increase its chances of enduring. Besides, no one says that honoring one’s history and its heroes should be limited to one month, that one has to stop telling the story once the month of February has ended.

This month and for the rest of my life if it it takes that long, I want to eradicate the use of color when describing human beings. I am beginning with the color black because it begins with me but hopefully, I can inspire others to shed this social coloring of skin, to make white, red, yellow, brown and beige history. I want to put the color- coded language of race behind us so that it can no longer come between us. I hope to heal us from the wounds that this social stratification, this pigmentocracy as it has been called has caused. I pray that I can build a bridge of truth between all cultures.

You may be asking, “What’s wrong with color?” When we color human beings, we categorize them and to them, ascribe social worth. When we color human beings, we separate them from land and culture. Black is not tied to a neighborhood, country or continent. I mean, where do black people come from exactly? Where do they belong? When we color human beings, we can place them where we think that they should be; this is often in places that most benefit others at the expense of these now colored people’s social/ cultural/ physical/ psychological/ geographical/ mental/ emotional relocation.

When we color human beings, we reduce them to objects. We possess them and control their meaning. God may be the Potter, the One who has molded the clay. But, we are the painter who colors it. We make people seen and unseen, in the forefront or a member of the background of our society. We give them place and space. Their fate is in our hands or so we believe.

When we color human beings, we live by comparison and we love and hate based on its findings. We fight for color and we die in the name of it. We stand for color and we bow to it. It is an American idol. This is why I want to rid us of it. This is why the race-less life is so important. This is why I am making “black” history.

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