Now that our school PA systems’ are no longer spewing out stale black facts during morning announcements and history teachers are done glossing over the minuscule civil rights unit of their obsolete textbooks, it is time to finally ask ourselves this lingering question: what happens once black history month is over?
Since 1915, when Black History Month was just a seed in the fertile, but yet, racist soil of this country, the answer to that eerie question has been typically – well, nothing. For over 100 years, Black History Month has been somewhat of a tradition for people of our nation to appreciate, celebrate, and reflect on the past of America’s black community. But what do we do after we give Rosa Parks a lousy pat on the back? After we tirelessly recite those chilling words from Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, how do we begin to transcend his euphoric fantasy to an unbending reality? Now that we have spent the past 29 days paying tribute to the blacks that came before us, how do we plan to spend the rest of the year bettering the lives of black people today?
First, we must hold our country and its many ancestors accountable for the sins that they have committed against the black people of this nation. We must stop pretending that the land of the free wasn’t cultivated by black bodies on the receiving end of carriage whips and that the foundation for the home of the brave was not laid by the chained hands of pillaged women and sold children.
If we are to truly open our eyes to the history of the black body in America then we must not close our ears to the sounds of 100 lashes dissipating the backs of little girls and the screeching cries escaping the mouths of mothers as they pick their sons from trees like strange fruit.
It would be irresponsible for a nation who deems itself the beacon of democracy to so recklessly dim its light on the very people whose chained hands lit her torch of freedom. For if we are not to truly learn from our wretched history then we will suffer a ghastly fate. James Baldwin said it best when he proclaimed,
“People pay for what they do, and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it very simply; by the lives they lead.”
If America was to truly pay for her crimes would she still be rich enough to flaunt her diamonds of discrimination and pearls of prejudice, or would she grow bankrupt; losing her looted wealth which for so long has shielded her from justice.
We must begin to think how America would appear stripped of her gaudy garb and flashy things that are used to distract and divert on-lookers from for her ugly truth. The truth that America is currently paying the price, and America is doing as she historically does when she is in debt; she pays it with that of black bodies.
America vends the black mind at the education market when only 59% of black males graduate from high school. She auctions off the black stomach when 27.4% of blacks are in poverty while only 9.9% of whites suffer the same fate. She bargains away the black spirit when black people are twice as likely to be unemployed in relation to their white counterparts. She barters the black heart when 72% of black children are born to unwed mothers. And finally, she sells and discards of the entire black body when 1 in every 15 black men are incarcerated compared to only 1 in every 106 white men, regardless of similar crime rates.
This is how America has decided to pay her debt. This is how our nation compensates for the crimes that it has committed for the past 240 years. This is what black people have been reduced to in their own nation; prized stock. That is the only role that black americans have ever played in their own country-their own home.
But didn’t black people bring these things amongst themselves? Isn’t this a problem for the black community? How or why does this effect me? James Baldwin addressed these questions best when he said,
“People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.”
Now that black history month is over we must begin to find a cure for the poisoned citizens of our nations. America must begin to figure out another means of currency besides black bodies. We must stop allowing black humans to float lifeless in the bayous of our country after natural disasters. We must stop poising the water of our poor and underrepresented. We must stop hunting our teenage boys as they walk home from the corner stores of their own communities. We must stop supporting Presidential candidates whose platforms are held up by the pillars of hate, fear, racism and bigotry. We must stop using the phrase “those people” and “those communities” and instead begin to use expressions like “our people” and “our communities.” Until America denounces her past transgressions and commits to purge herself of her inherent evils, the cancer inside this country will only continue to grow and only self-destruction will be deemed equipped to cut it out.