Okay, you don’t know me and until a week ago, I didn’t know you.
But since you disrupted my life when you snuffed out the lives of 10 African American people in Buffalo, I decided to write you a letter. I included pictures of your victims in my first draft but removed them because they were too painful to look at. Why the pictures? Well because I wanted you to see them in your worst nightmares during your years behind bars.
The debate over Black History Month is not new, but it intensified when the Oscar nominees were all Caucasian and earned the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Provoked an outcry, it raised questions about the existence of Black Entertainment Television awards (BET) and whether it hurt rather than helped African Americans in Hollywood.
“Either we want to have segregation or integration. And if we don’t want segregation, then we need to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the Image Awards, where you’re only awarded if you’re black. If it were the other way around, we would be up in arms. It’s a double standard, ” said actress Stacey Dash in Variety. .
The controversy also involves Black History Month. My conversations with friends showed considerable ambivalence. Some felt that limiting the recognition of African Americans to one month was not helpful. Recognition and respect should be awarded throughout the year. Further, they felt that Black History should be seen as American History. Luronda Jennings, a member of Chattanooga’s Lean In – Women GroundBreakers, expressed her views. “Although Black History awareness is extremely valuable, I feel that once the entire human race respects and embraces American history and the uniqueness of all individuals, we will begin to move forward with positive change.” Another member of the group, Tina Player, shared similar thoughts, “Black should be recognized every day and not focused on one month of the year. We as a people are important and each of us has a story to tell.”
Hopes for a time when Black History Month will be obsolete were joined by a down-to-earth perspective. Voicing concern that young people learn little about Black History in school, they were reluctant to reject events marking Black History Month. Too few youngsters know about prominent African Americans beyond The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
If there was no Black History Month, would there would be any recognition at all? Current censorship of race-related history suggest that instead of becoming more comfortable together as some claim, we’ll enter a culture war. Casting us adrift from our culturally diverse roots to achieve a more perfect union has never worked.. I have always said that attempts to “Homogenize NOT Harmonize” only alienates and creates more discomfort and conflict, not less. Perhaps the best solution is to use the tools of Black History Month to advocate for more visibility and equity.
Hear this very personal look at history from both an African-American and Jewish perspective. Don’t miss this amazing online discussion. Scroll down for the link.
In 1992, Ken Granderson, a graduate of MIT, launched his first software development company Inner-City Software, Brains in the Hood. He was committed to closing the Digital Divide by creating technology products and solutions by & for people of African descent. For a decade, he introduced Boston’s communities of color to computers and the Internet, giving local organizations and Boston’s Black newspaper an online world-class presence. Moving back to New York City, he was born in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, his achievements in technical design, education, and empowerment are nationally and internationally impressive. His website, BLACKFACTS, is an affiliate of the ADR. (CLICK to access)
Deborah coordinated the 1990 National Workshop on Christian Jewish RelationsIn and created her first Holocaust video in Rockford, Illinois, where she served as of the Jewish Federation’s executive director . She went on to become the Community & Media Liaison of the Tulsa Jewish Federation shortly after the OK City bombing and is the former exec. director of Chattanooga’s Jewish Federation. She carries on the work of her father who became the CFO of the American Jewish Archives. He served as a US military intelligence officer during World War II assigned to interrogate Nazi prisoners of war. CLICK for more information about her memoir,The Liberator’s Daughter, and to hear an interview with her father about his wartime experiences.
I attended 12 public schools in Chattanooga during times when almost everything was racially separated: schools, churches, restaurants, tours, organization memberships. After my high school graduation and an early marriage, I relocated with family to New England and eventually graduated from Southern Connecticut University. In the mid-seventies when I became an educator in a large suburban high school in Hamden, Connecticut, only about 10% of the school’s staff and student body was African American.
As I rode the elevator, I overheard a conversation between two African American adults.They were talking about one of their bosses and one said, “People who are not Black do not understand the prejudices and oppression we have gone through.”
As I left the elevator and walked into the doctor’s office, I was handed a clipboard with some required forms I needed to fill out.One section caught my attention: Race.It asked me to check a box.I immediately thought about the conversation I just heard, and looked over my choices, Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander.I then thought about prejudices and oppression for each choice.
In the 1960s, sociologist Harold Garfinkel founded a new field of inquiry called ethnomethodology. As such, Garfinkel uses the term indexing to describe how we depend on whatever information and experience we have to make sense of every social context. We call this social cues. For example, when a man in the US meets a person who is wearing a dress and a pair of high heels while carrying a lady’s purse, the man instantly concludes that this is a woman and therefore will instantaneously interact with this person according to the social etiquette between a man and a woman.
Garfinkel calls such mental exercise indexing. When we are unaware of social cues because we have not had interaction with members of a particular social group, we would depend on the common information available, whether true or not. This is when stereotyping comes into play.
My hunch is that the majority of those well-meaning folks who say, “When I see you, I don’t color,” or a variation, have no idea how exhaustive it can be to many Black folks. And to Black folks who hear this constantly, the typical response is usually a deep inhale and a …. “well, here we go again!”
Case in point is Oprah Winfrey’s latest magazine “O” with an advice column headlined, “How to Deal with Your White Friends”– advice for Black women feeling worn down by the neediness of others to help them deal with racial issues.”
So why this recent surge in interest in racial issues, Black ones in particular?
“The Black Lives Movement wants to see the destruction of the nuclear family.” “BLM is a hate group that’s planning to destroy the police.” “Let us not be confused. BLM is nothing but a Marxist group.”
These are actual quotes – from politicians running for office (surprise, surprise, surprise) – that typifies how Black Lives Matter has become a convenient boogey man – a political wedge issue – these days. However, the words have moved from baseball caps and posters. They’re now painted in large letters on streets in New York, Washington, DC and other cities. You’ll even find the words on tattoos, and even engraved on protective masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.
If there’s an upside to the images of those protesting the death of George Floyd, it’s dismantling the myth of angry blacks alone roaming the streets, looting, setting fires and burning down their neighborhoods. I mean, one must be blind if they did not see people other than African Americans holding up “Black Lives Matter” posters, getting tear gassed, hand cuffed, arrested ….andlooting. Truly a watershed moment in social history if ever there was one.
Remember Rashard Brooks and Other
Black Victims of Police Brutality
In 1964, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to sweep the country, the arc of justice needs to bend more quickly in the case of Rayshard Brooks and other African Americans who have been killed by police. This is especially important as the country commemorates Juneteenth.
The justice system must send a clear message that overzealous police cannot get away with targeting and treating Black men and women as second class citizens. Every American must fully comprehend that all Black lives matter. Continue reading Juneteenth Message – by Elwood Watson→