Note: This blog is one that I published in 2013, but I thought it needed a repeat.
February is the month officially designated to celebrate all that is Black in history in America. This is the time that the rest of the nation steps back, acquiesce to our request for alone time and watch us step out in unhinged celebration. There will be dinners and functions, programs and marches; books will be read that that are normally tucked away in seldom visited sections of libraries all over this country. For all of this I am grateful but also puzzled. I ask, is my history really Black?
Consider this: the contributions made in America by slaves and their descendants are no more apart from American History than are those made by slave masters and their children. Our contributions are woven tightly into the fabric of American History; the strands brilliant and outstanding, courageous and strong and without them, the dynamics of America would be vastly different. Our history is American history; equally, American history is mine.
Although we are often divided on issues; we sometimes deprecate one another, insult and misunderstand each other, our hand in building this America is singular. What former slaves and their children have done in and for this country contributed to the building of America–my America. Your America. We helped to build this institution.
We all strive for the same things: freedom, a right to be seen, heard, respected and treated with dignity. Our way of getting such things is often unalike and sometimes even hostile but our humanness should transcend our hostility. And it is true that racism is apparent; a social strategy to keep us oppressed. But we cannot oppress one race or group and remain a “free nation,” because of our undeniable connectedness.
We all thrive on the provisions of one another, even when we refuse to acknowledge the souls that have made such provisions.
The babies my great grandmother cradled and fed, the big house she cleaned and the clothes she scrubbed were not her own. But those children grew to be strong and viable; the house was kept immaculate and the way of living for her master was made easier. We all benefit from the work of those Black teachers and tutors, doctors and researchers that rose from the trenches of their enslaved parents and grandparents. They gave us light in the way of inventions and findings and educated individuals.
Likewise the language we speak and the laws by which we abide were not created by Black Americans, yet we abide by those laws and seek to create equality through them. It has taken citizens great and small to establish a nation that has remained a bastion in the world for more than 200 years. We cannot deny each other.
American history isn’t sweet or flowery. No, in many aspects it is brutal, despicable, embarrassing and painful to remember. But it is truth and cannot be changed or altered. But it is the way in which we face such truths that uproots us from our comfortable spaces and causes the scales to fall from our eyes. It is only when we begin to look at each other and see a reflection of ourselves that we can begin a sincere dialog. It is when we acknowledge this truth that we will begin to understand what makes us think and feel and act in the manner in which we do.
To join us as we celebrate those who endured much hardship and bravely adopted this country as their own is not a separate celebration. For as you recognize our history you also celebrate your own.
To deny the contributions Blacks have made in history as American history is to broaden an already growing disparity between our races. A people who will not be heard will always be misunderstood. Celebrate with me, learn with me, discover and be in awe. My history is American.