“The mere imparting of information is not education” – Carter G. Woodson
As I look up quotes about the future, there are a lot of people who say it in several different ways, but the gist is ….”Don’t look to the past or worry about the future…. live in the moment.” You know those quotes that I am talking about don’t you?
Because you can’t change the past and you can’t predict the future, and so on, so it’s best to just go day by day. But the way these days are going since Trump’s inauguration, it’s been really hard to not worry about the future. You have supporters, in my opinion, blindly agreeing with anything to an absolute fault, and then you have angry non-supporters, in my opinion, who literally think we are the verge of WWWIV. Is it me or does that not seem like an exaggeration?
So today, I decided to bump thinking about right now, I want to think about the past.
Not necessarily looking into “better days”, but it is Black History Month. In my 3 years of blogging, I have never written a “black history” post. To some extent, writing about black history is over kill in February and I prefer to mention or write about past leaders and heroes when it is relevant to things going on and not just in a particular month. And people make this argument all the time. That black history should be celebrated every day or incorporated throughout the year in American History.
However, there is a place for separating out a time to celebrate black history just as it is important as to have a museum completely dedicated to black history. It is important for others, non-blacks, to learn our history, but it’s about more than that. The celebration of black history reminds black people that their lives matter, not to sound cliché. That years of slavery which completely ripped our families apart and tore our identities from us simply based on the color of our skin was wrong, and that we are meant for more.
Now, I am sure there are some people, even black people, who are out there thinking I shouldn’t focus on the negative. That we have “overcome” and “arrived” so dwelling on the past doesn’t improve anything.
When people, and by people I am actually talking about experts, talk about trauma, there is this thing called generational trauma that we know is handed down, from generation to generation. When we look at Black Americans, this trauma didn’t stop at slavery. We haven’t had 200 years to “get over” it.
…Jim Crow happened….
….The Civil Rights Movement happened….
…The crack “epidemic” and the mass incarceration of black lives happened…
….Then the first Black President happened….
I am just going to stop there, because we are still unpacking the last 8 years of the Obama presidency and what impact that will have on Black Americans. (i.e. Police and Race relations, the rise of hate groups, etc. )
Talk about some serious ish, and check this though… this is just a few of the popular and national things that occurred. Who knows of the struggles and successes that happened across America from the back woods to the larger cities? The role of the church, sports, the rise of the single parent household, and the list goes on. Because of these major events, we often talk about the resiliency of Black Americans to go through so many ups and down and still accomplish amazing things. So for me…learning about the lives of scientists, artists, writers, educators, athletes, mathematicians who broke barriers… I am here for it EVERY February. It’s cathartic. Because as a reminder for those who don’t understand, every time that I am mistreated or terrorized, because of the color of my skin, the trauma comes back to me subconsciously. That there is something about me that is wrong about the color of my skin, not because I believe it, but there will always be people who believe it and act on it.
For every mistreatment I experience, I am not being beat, harassed or killed but my ancestors experienced it in a way I could never know or imagine. Which means I started this blog all wrong about not being able to deal with the present. I can’t even begin to imagine what my ancestors had to go through day in and day out.
So yes, you can imagine if I feel this way about myself, I am very tired of people complaining about Trump all day and all night. It really is not accomplishing anything. Like at all.
As I sit here and write this piece, families across central and south Texas are experiencing raids from Federal immigration agents. Parents, who are here illegally in the country, do have some rights and have children in this country who are legal citizens. It’s hard not to see the correlation between these families and my ancestors. Separating children from their parents is an irreversible trauma that Black Americans are still dealing with so of course I wouldn’t want another family to experience this. Now, I know being in this country illegally is not ideal. I am not really here for that either, just like many other Americans, but we have to go about this is in a better way. We have to be better. The scariest part is that people are just denying that it is happening for no other reason than they just don’t want to believe the truth.
When you separate families, you never know if they will be reunited. History will be lost. Identities forgotten. Something that only Black History couldn’t magnify more by the stories of countless black heroes who don’t know their history.
A man, born a slave, freed upon emancipation, worked in salt furnaces and coal mines in West Virginia for several years to earn money. In 1872, he made his way east to Hampton Institute, a school established to educate freedmen and their descendants, where he worked to pay for his studies. In 1881, the Hampton Institute president Samuel C. Armstrong recommended this to become the first leader of Tuskegee Institute, the new normal school (teachers’ college) in Alabama. He led the institution for the rest of his life, more than 30 years.
This was Booker T. Washington. My favorite black history story. Attending Tuskegee University will always be the best years of my life. Being Black. Surrounded by Blackness. Learning enough Black History to last a lifetime. But there is a line in his famous book, “Up from Slavery”, that can be seen as insignificant, but rings a harsh truth to our history:
“Of my ancestry, I know almost nothing.”
As many other slaves who were free and forced to begin a life in a land stripped of their identity and heritage. It’s important to celebrate and learn our history, because for many of us, it is all the history we’ve got. And to build a better future, we must know our identity, who we are, to forge a better future.