Monday, January 24, 2011

A Matter of Perspective

As February approaches, I get a bit nervous.  Some may mistake it for the coming Valentine's Day, but that is not the case.  I am not one to get caught-up in consumerism; if my wife doesn't know I love her the other 364 days of the year, then what will V-Day tell her?  She's only worth the effort one time each year?  Anyways, My birthday is in February, but even that is not what makes me somewhat nervous; not even turning 30 this year is what makes me nervous about February.  I get a tingling nervousness because February is Black History Month.  But why?  Why do I get this feeling?

Well, here's a picture of me
Yay!  I'm Black!  I don't have to feel guilty at all this month!  I Majored in History so I won't sound like an idiot when someone mistakenly says Whitney Houston Invented the Cotton Gin in Eli, Texas, I won't agree with them.  I am a 3rd-Generation college grad, and a 2nd-Gen Master's degree earner.  Success is expected in my family.  My brother and I both were accepted to military academies, my other brother was an NAIA College National Champion in Track.  So why does BHM make me nervous?  Here's a picture that illustrates my life
There are actually too many chocolate chips in this "town" of a cookies, because I grew up around an OBSCENE amount of  White people.  As in, my family was The Black Family they knew.  

So here is the root of my nervous tingles: I think I give, and have given, all my childhood friends the wrong idea about Black people.  There was an assumption that we were just like the Cosby Show, but how realistic is that?  I was good at sports, but i didn't bring it up because I knew it was a stereotype.  It wasn't fair to talk trash when I could always back it up... it was cockiness that could have bordered on mean.  Just because they found out Shawn Kemp could dunk in the 8th grade I was always asked if I could too... I spent whole days trying to jump higher just so I could.  I was not offended by remarks I had no knowledge were widely known as being racist or offensive.  

I was first called the N-Word in 3rd grade by a classmate who most likely heard it from their parents.  When I ask my mom what it meant, she said that it was a word for Black people.  I said, "Well, I am."  I got to learn about Black History from people who "had to " teach it with peers who could not relate.  I would get angry at images I watched in class about the Civil Rights protests, and not know why or have anyone to talk to about it.  I can't tell you the number of Black jokes I've laughed off.  

Now, I am a professional with a Master's in Education, and I find myself in as The Black Teacher in a school with a >1% minority enrollment.  I don't blame the district, it's only 25 miles East of Seattle.  I just want to make it through BHM without becoming a part of someone's curriculum. 

What does BHM mean to me? Nothing.  It doesn't land in the school year curricula during the Civil Rights movement, and to devote a single period of time to anything is to essentially ignore it the rest of the time.  If you want my opinion (which you must if you've made it this far into this post), then BHM starts in Math classes with the discussion of how a Black man's vote was only counted as two-thirds.  The you  can move into why we wanted to show America, and he world, that we are 100% MAN!


  1. When I think of MLK I think of my dad. My mom was pregnant with me when my parents went to Mississippi in 1963. They just thought it was the right thing to do. A brick was thrown through our window and my dad barely escaped having his car break down in the wrong county on the way home from the Freedom Democratic Party state convention.

    Here is a related piece I wrote a little while ago:

  2. I did not appreciate the historical significance of events (not just the Civil Rights) until about 5 years ago. It has made me more aware of how we look back on things such as this. I think verbal histories have a very powerful spot in helping us remember the emotions and the sentiments of the times as we move farther and farther away from them.

    Do you look back on your memories of that time differently as time goes on?