9.2.08 , Posted by Geoff Thorne at 14:24

It's that month again. It sort of snuck up on me this time, I confess. Already the various networks are trotting out their ethnocentric programming and their heartfelt PSAs. There are official discussions of Dr. King's legacy. Commentators and pundits are, apparently, looking forward to something they call a "post Racial" society. Black History Month. Again. I'm very ambivalent about the whole thing, i don't mind telling you. I'm a black man. Not an African American. Not a Negro. Certainly not a nigger or any of the other lovely epithets. I know a pretty good chunk of "my people's" history and I take extreme pleasure and pride in their ability to bear up under a cruelty that I don't believe most Americans can conceive. I think survivors of the nazi death camps might have an idea. I think survivors of the Boznian and Rwandan genocides might. I'm fairly certain most South Africans do. But the thing is, I'm black. Black. That is to say my skin is brown and the majority of my ancestors hailed, most likely, from somewhere in West Africa. Shouldn't I be an American by now? I see this month barreling down on me every year and I wonder, after all this time, if it's really the right thing to do. Next month is Hispanic Heritage month or something like that. I'm sure there's an Asian Heritage month and, eventually, I have no doubt, there will be a Gay/Lesbian/Transgender Appreciation month. Why not? Why not for any of it? All these peoples have, at one time or another been horribly oppressed in our society. All of them have been castigated simply for arbitrary "differences" between them and those who make up the majority culture. They are all owed a whomping great apology for all that. A sincere one. The thing is I don't think that debt will ever be paid. Even when the government (and it has to be a friendly one) does apologize, there's something missing because for the most part, it wasn't that particular iteration of rulers who did the most dastardly deeds. So it smacks of being much too little, much too late on the old apology scale. Skip it, I say, in fact. What's the point? Which is, on a certain level, how I feel about this month. My ancestors- including my parents and grand parents- weren't fighting to get a little separate piece carved out for themselves. it wasn't so they could have their own ethnic homeland somewhere in the U.S.. They fought, they died, they survived horrible tortures and deprivations not so they could wear a badge of exclusion but because they wanted to be Americans. They wanted to have this nation live up to the sign written over the door. It was the single unifying theme, the ethos, the zeitgeist. But now, about a third of the way through this month that is supposed to honor us, I find my stomach a little jumpy and my fingers drifting towards my head for a scratch. Shouldn't this be unnecessary by now? I mean, shouldn't school kids just be getting all this at once as part of normal history classes? Shouldn't they know about Banneker and Hensen and Carver and Bethune and the rest? And not only in terms of how they responded to the vicious racism that put walls around their lives and mines under their feet? Shouldn't those great men and women have been folded into the batter by now alongside Adams, Franklin and the rest? When we talk about our forefathers (and our foremothers) shouldn't Frederick Douglas just be part of the granite pantheon? Every American owes Dr. King and it wasn't only blacks who walked with him or who felt, as he did, that we could and should be better if we'd just do as we promised in the first place. I dunno. I'm glad a few more folks will hear about some of these great people. They deserve to be trumpeted. But I think, if the goals of "my people" (just people, really. our people) were going to be met, a simple thing like changing the textbooks would go a longer way to creating that country they dreamed about. That's what the sign says, right? Something like "All for one and one for all?" I think we could spare the annual month-long national festival of horns if we would just put a little more unum in our pluribus. Anyway. That's how I feel today. Tomorrow it may be all about Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable. If you don't already know who he is, maybe we do need this month after all.

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