My problem with Black History Month

I’ve always wanted to like Black History Month. I really have. I still want to. I really do. Really. But all it does is remind me of whiteness. I know it’s supposed to do the other thing, but for me it can’t.

The reason is not because my history is somehow supposed to be relegated to a single month, though that’s laughable. And it’s not because February is the shortest month, but that’s also not a ticket-seller. It’s not because the whole thing feels like a generally disingenuous gesture from a country that hates the very idea of even acknowledging its own history, but that’s also true. It’s not because it started as an idea to educate ourselves and got turned into a political gesture from the only US president to never be elected to the presidency or vice presidency. Well, it might be a little of that one.

The main problem I have with Black History Month is that almost every year it’s just 28 days of dipshit bigots whining about how there’s no white history month. I say ‘almost’ because every four years I’ve got to put up with it for an extra day. 

I know that may seem like a small annoyance, especially since those milksops find just as many things to self-victimize over for the other 11 months. But it really gets to me in February because this kind of behavior exactly defines whiteness to me.

Whiteness is a permission structure. It defines worth. They defined our worth during slavery both in how much we could labor and how much they could sell us for. After abolition, whiteness said we weren’t worth educating or hiring for respectable jobs. We weren’t worth enough to be in their neighborhoods and so they redlined us. We were trash to them and they did everything they could to throw us away. But even that wasn’t enough, because once they pushed us into what they believed was the garbage, then they had to push us out of there and get in there themselves. Gentrification, for example.  

Of course, they did the same thing perpetually with indigenous folks and reservations, but this deranged cultural FOMO doesn’t only apply to physical spaces.

All American Folk music, by example has Black origins. Yes, even country music. Now, at the beginning of the recording industry, it had already been decided that certain kinds of Black folk music were already white. What hadn’t been taken over at that point would be referred to as “Race Records” and it wasn’t allowed to integrate. Billboard started charting best-selling sheet music in 1913, but the company wouldn’t even recognize the existence of Black music until the 1940s. And even then, it was completely segregated.

This segregation has not stopped white people from wanting to possess what they themselves have discarded. Blues, Jazz, rock, soul and R&B all start off as kinds of Black cultural expression pushed to the margins and excluded from the mainstream. And eventually white people attempt to own it, misunderstanding the very nature of ownership—something they created. You can’t own a person’s expression of experience any more than you can own the person’s experience itself, which is the actual attempt being made and it’s happening to rap music as I type.

With art, this marrow-level hypocrisy often gets dismissed specifically as cultural appropriation, as though it’s just an intellectual exercise. But it’s the exact nature of the USA’s racial hierarchy. Black people emanate a beauty in just being and the white reaction is a kind of compulsive spiritual colonialism, attempts of destruction, consumption or costume.

And so, when February rolls around and all the racist trolls begin to thaw and drool and burp out questions about the location of their fantasy white month, I get a little sad. The absurdity of white ownership becomes full-on lunacy when the thing they’re trying to own is time. On top of that, it bums me out to know that they don’t understand who or where they are. They don’t understand that every attempt to kill us or buy us or copy us only reinforces the distance between us. Their envy of our beauty only reveals how ugly they believe themselves to be. And that’s not Black history. It’s white identity.

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