Black History: The Complexity of our Past and the Perplexity of our Future

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As black history month begins this year, part of my growth in 2020 thus far, has required me to take a long hard look at myself on a multitude of different levels. As this relates to being black, blackness is a plane of existence all of its own; and the more I mature, the more I wrestle with what being black means. My perspective on my blackness has been one of racial injustice. I have fully leaned into the hurt and pain forced on black people over the last 400 years in America. I am ever aware of my status as a minority in America and the fact that young black men and women are perpetual victims of violence, prejudices, and outright overt racism. I am aware that equal opportunities aren’t always equal or opportune. I am aware that life is just harder for blacks in America and that we must work 10 times harder to yield the same or similar results as our fairer skinned counter parts. I am conscious of every decision that I make because everything I do, whether I fail or succeed will always be judged through the lens of me being black first and a person second.

Blackness is a plane of existence all of its own

Am I failing myself by thinking this way? Am I not the best version of myself because I always have a chip on my shoulder for something that did not directly happen to me? Who told me inferiority is the standard by which I must operate and excel from? If I think I’m inferior because of my skin color how can I ever be superior if I’m always going to be black? I recently heard that the lesson in black history is that we as a people are more than where we came from or what we experienced. To be black means to persevere, to be resilient and malleable. It means that there is a portion of strength on one’s life. But the implication of strength is that there are battles to be fought. That’s where I begin to have cognitive dissonance. Why must I be certain things and not others. Why must I look elsewhere for identity while others can have a whole society affirm theirs. Why are my people relegated to monolithic paradigms? Why is everything us an uphill battle? When I zoom out on how I think about myself and those that look like me I realize the insidious nature of a slave mentality.

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How we identify with who we are is an essential part of our mental freedom. I and other’s like me who struggle with the reality of their existence must make a consorted effort to change the narrative. That means redefining blackness for ourselves. Other people groups have used this power to change their narrative all throughout time. The fact of the matter is, before we were slaves, we were kings and queens. Before we were given the right to be free, we were free. Before we were 3/5 of a person, we were whole people. It’s important for black people to know our whole truth and not just what a textbook that had no representation of us in the writer’s room says about us. We must stand firm in our history in fear that it might repeat itself. Malcolm X once said:

History is a people’s memory and without a memory, man is demoted to the lower animals.  

How we identify with who we are is an essential part of our mental freedom

As this month presses forward it’s important for Americans in general to acknowledge their history of slavery. It is America’s original sin. And for black people who live in America it’s important that we hold not only our fellow non-black citizens accountable but ourselves as well. Let’s not run so fast towards progressivism that when we stop and look back our history is eclipsed.

History is a people’s memory and without a memory, man is demoted to the lower animals – Malcolm X

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