I’m Black. Black Black. Emergency bonnet in the car Black. So Black that everyone on “Light Girls” thinks I want to stab them. And I’m here to talk to you about Black History Month.
Or, more specifically, a few incarnations of Black history celebrators you may or may not encounter over the next 28 days. Because, let’s be honest, the month can (and quite often does) turn into a deluge of culturally insensitive ignorance deeper than Tiny’s permanent eye color change and Don Lemon every time he opens his mouth.
It never fails. Every year you will have Black people ignorant about Black history who show their behinds in a particularly ignorant fashion during Black History Month.
Which leads me to my first incarnation: The Black bat. Many forms of bats are nocturnal and, since they can’t see in the dark, navigate using echolocation. In other words: They make a bunch of noise and the sound waves that echo back to them help them avoid running into trees and capture their prey.
This works well for regular bats. Not so much for the Black bat.
You see, the Black bat often makes decisions based on sheer instinct, without giving much thought to the possible repercussions of its words and actions. Only after it receives backlash and criticism — usually after the subsequent cooning has landed in the media — does the Black bat take a step back and re-examine the decision to serve a fried chicken dinner to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or host an interactive runaway slave experience at a predominately White institution (Hi, University of Georgia!), complete with “slavery food snacks."
In other words: Just because you're Black does not mean that your mindless insensitivity does not warrant an immediate course correction.
On the other end of the spectrum you have the Black unicorn. These Afro-centric faux historian revisionists will continue to pimp out countless pamphlets, books, movies and workshops along the "Mozart was Black" vein. You might also find them selling herbal womb salts next to the raw shea butter and black soap stand.
Now, I'm a huge proponent of contextualized Black American history lessons beyond the "We was slaves then we was free" rhetoric. However, while seemingly harmless, the Black unicorns take their teachings of the African Diaspora so far left Sankofa could not reach back and get it. And that's a problem.
Because, as much as I would like to believe 'Pac is still alive, I can't go around telling people that I ran into him at Trader Joe's last night. It is equally irresponsible to claim that everyone who did anything of substance in the history of the universe was Black.
So while these characters are searching for an ankh hidden on the back of a quarter, or heralding Ben Carson as one of the greatest living civil rights leaders while nibbling on sweet potato biscuits and black-eyed pea salad, it's up to the rest of us to recognize the real purpose behind honoring Black History Month with the dignity and respect it deserves, because Black lives and experiences do not cease to matter on March 1.
Our histories span continents and generations, with a new piece added to the infinite mosaic each day.
My history is embedded in my mother's voice when she recalls the day her white college professor on her newly integrated university's campus called her a "nigger" to her face; or my father's face as he remembers the men of color forced to fight and die in a war abroad while still being denied basic human rights at home. My history is the writing of 18th century poet and orator Lucy Terry. My history is the success of UN Diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Ralph Bunche. My history is the legacy of Nancy Hicks Maynard, one of the first black female reporters at the New York Times and renowned media diversity advocate.
It's critical that we share these stories, and pass on to future generations the knowledge that #blacklivesmatter is not a new concept, but is one our country is still struggling to grasp after centuries of denial.
I, for one, plan to milk every ounce imaginable out of the paltry 28 days allotted by the federal government. So, when March 1 rolls around, I'll be right back plotting my next attack on Nya Lee.
Clarece Polke is a Pittsburgh-based Floridian with a love for HBCUs, co-washing and 90s Pop anthems. When not reheating leftovers, she's dreaming of a City High reunion tour.