Wednesday, February 1, 2012

There IS a Reason to Celebrate, To Remember

Today commences the month long celebration of remembering the history of our nation's black community: their struggles, their triumphs, and how the country could be different today if it weren't for some amazing people in our past. It is a time for African-Americans to stand up and be proud of who they are, what their people were subjected to and how they overcame it. It is also a time to remember those who fell in the battle for Civil Rights and equality, something we were all promised under the constitution of this nation. This is a time to celebrate a battle hat should not have had to been fought, and even in some cases still is fought. This is Black History Month.

It's easy for me to not be bothered by the existence of this month, I don't have a racist bone in my body, but for some people who feel they are the same way it's not so easy to turn their cheek and allow the celebration. I have heard several comments from well-mannered people that I consider good friends that are spiteful, even blatant racist generalizations that just shock me when I hear them. You hear things like "why do they get so excited" and "I hate when black people rave about Black History Month," and "why do they get a month?" I can understand these questions, because I know everyone has a story and their reactions are a deeply rooted in their history and long-formed attitudes, however, I cannot agree with them. I believe this month is justified, even deserved.

What African-Americans, who have had a presence in this land nearly as long as us white folk, were subjected to in this country for hundreds of years is appalling. They were slaves while living in a nation whose mantra posited that they should have been neighbors. They were killed, mocked, ridiculed, beaten, cursed, humiliated, abused, tortured, embarrassed, even spat on. People spat on them because of the color of their skin. What an insulting action, and to forget that that was a frequent phenomenon is a very difficult undertaking. The Black community of this country were truly subjected to the most horrific discrimination for centuries. And then in the 60s, that changed. Well, for the most part.

To state that racism is non-existent is simply dumb, and most people don't argue this. But some people legitimately do believe that Black people are completely equal on all accounts, and in some areas and minds, this is true, but as a whole I do not believe so. This becomes clear to me when I hear things like the quotes I mentioned earlier, from white people who I consider open-minded and progressive. Black people really are still subject to some of the same attitudes as they were before, but the actions against them aren't as frequently executed because of the laws. People will still shy away from them in passing from time to time, assume poverty or lack of education, attribute their bad behavior to a negligent household, and so on. These generalizations are so deeply rooted in our our culture that people don't even realize it is racist. And while there are plenty of examples to support each of these, there are also plenty to refute it.

Now that I have supported Black History Month and its supporters, I have something for the other side too. I know what they mean to address when they make these encompassing generalizations, but I will do it with a lighter foot. Black History Month, for some, is a time to promote their culture and their history as superior. I have seen it treated as an excuse to say and do as they feel because it's almost like a get-out-of-jail-free card. I know this may sound racist, but it's true in some cases. Some people aren't celebrating the equality they had to fight for but rather that they are better. And if you're part of the Black race and don't do this, then I know this may sound like I'm defeating the supportive statements I made earlier, but those generalizations from White people that I mentioned also don't make sense to White people who don't make them. This post isn't for the mild-mannered and understanding, it's for those who abuse their rights and incorrectly define equality. Both races are guilty of this in some instances, but that's not to say Black History Month is bad, or that Whites are racists.

This is not a rant about racism or a demand that Blacks calm their celebrations, this is a request for both sides to recognize the others feelings. For those people who have made generalizations about Blacks and their celebration of this month, realize that you don't know their story. To celebrate this month enthusiastically likely means they have a reason to. I don't see a rational being celebrating something they didn't earn or deserve: meaning they have likely been subjected to plenty of racist treatment, either subtle or not, and feel that now is the time to scream "Say it loud! I'm black and I'm proud!" And if that's the case, it's their right. But my request for the other side - for those African-Americans who treat this month as a time of indirect revenge, for promoting their culture as the better, remember that you are doing exactly what your people fought against. These actions are detrimental to the war that was fought on our soil, and when displayed in the faces of unassuming White people they can create a racist sentiment that wasn't there, further widening the divide that was once in the process of being traversed with a makeshift bridge. Do not allow this bridge to be destroyed.

If I offended any of you, I am sorry. I may have said some things that contradicted themselves and I may have been racist without realizing it. It's part of what makes me human. But I hope you understood my message. Black History Month is a good thing. And like most things intended to be good, like steroids or marijuana, it has been used for bad purposes in some cases. However, all of them are still meant to be good and that needs to be remembered. It's beneficial to our country and a large percentage of it's population, so allow it to be celebrated, and celebrate it as it should be. We are all created equal, let's remember that.

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