Every year I cringe when February arrives. And every year I try to think of new ways to raise awareness that can bring us closer to understanding and bridging the racial divide.
This year I encourage you to pay attention to what you see and hear during Black History Month specifically related to Black people/African Americans.
One night last week during bedtime, my 7 year old told me in detail about Rosa Parks and Viola Desmond. It’s important for kids to be learning about these female role models who are Black and who advanced civil rights. However, I’m not sure she is learning about the system that created the need for these women (and many others) to rise up.
This has to be part of the conversation, or we are missing the point.
Racism is systemic
Yes, I want my child to know about strong people who are Black. But I also need her to know why part of her ancestors needed to be strong. And prepare her for why she still needs to be strong today.
We’re not done with civil rights. We need to go deeper.
Joaquin Phoenix started the month off well at his BAFTA acceptance speech for his role as The Joker as he acknowledged systemic racism.
What about Black History?
When I anticipate BHM, I’m already cringing at the many many references to slavery and the civil rights movement that we will hear about. Yes, that is history and we need to know about it. But we often miss the context and the white history that created those specific Black histories – including that race is a construct that was createdto support and uphold the trans-Atlantic slave trade. (Email me if you want to know more about the course on race we are creating.)
AND, we hardly ever hear about Black history beyond these stories. What about the African nations that have existed for centuries and from where Black people were stolen to be enslaved across the ocean?
I look forward to seeing more African history that gives us a fuller context and understanding and appreciation.
Questions to ask:
In the meantime, here are some questions to consider to help expand your awareness as you take in the BHM events in your city:
- What stories am I being told?
- How are Black people/African American people portrayed?
- What message(s) is/are being reinforced about Black people/African American people?
- What’s the impact?
(c) 2020 Annemarie Shrouder