For Black History Month, Let’s Talk Reparations

Black History Month, reparationsI’ve had growing cynicism around the celebration of Black History Month. Black History Month is taught in February, our shortest month, seems to scream: remember what you were instead of remember what you are. Black History Month is not an advancement, but reparations would be.

The other day I wrote this status update on Facebook in jest: “Happy Black History Month. Please don’t forget to leave your Timberlands out so the ghost of Harriet Tubman will visit and fill them with Martin’s Dream and Obama’s Change. Maybe if we are real real good this year she will get Meek and Kanye kicked off of Twitter.” The year before that I made some a crack about James Earl Jones visiting good Black boys and girls for Black History Month and leaving them peanuts.

I’ve had growing cynicism around the celebration of Black History Month. The celebration of Black History Month should be about the achievements and ethos of Black culture across the diaspora. Yet what Black History Month often amounts to is a retelling of Harriet Tubman and Fredrick Douglass. The collective American narrative around how Black History Month is taught in February, our shortest month, seems to scream: remember what you were instead of remember what you are.

Black History Month is often taught with three topics as the primary discussion pillars: Slavery, The Civil Rights Movement, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The conditioning messages are about integration, reconciliation, and nominal Black achievement (see look your people made the Cotton Gin!). This uppity Negress takes issue with the Black History Month curricula for significant reasons. The primary flaw with how we approach Black History Month lies in how we continue to talk around the actual subject. Sure, we want to focus on Black Futures. HEY LOOK WHAT WE’VE CREATED AND CONTINUE TO CREATE MORE THAN THE COTTON GIN! More than the measure of what we can create or did create is the conversation concerning reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a conversation most folks like to have while evoking the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. We talk about loving our neighbor, peaceful protest, and acting right. Black History Month has yielded celebrations for over five decades and, yet, in one form or another, racial intolerance in the United States has been consistent and more overt in many ways. Our approach to Black History Month, Black history, and where the Diaspora fits within the context of American history keeps the public deluded about the true state of Black America.

So is there a solution?

Black History Month is not an advancement, but reparations would be. Black History Month gets categorized with our first Black President. These things are what the complancent who aren’t interested in doing anti-racist work point to when inequality and suffering are pointed out. “Hush now! We are post-race, you have a whole month where we celebrate you, and what about Barack?!” We shouldn’t be talking about reconciling or celebrating with a Nation that refuses to repair the harm it has caused. Reparations aren’t easy. They come with a cost and make us uncomfortable, as any attempt to disengage from pathologically abusive behavior can be.

So 40 acres and a mule will make this better?

You can keep your forty acres, your mule, and your antiquated views on reparations. The reparations I am talking about are to build around a bold shift to provide economic policies that give Black Americans the resources they need to rebuild their communities, ensure the health and growth of their families, and engage in society with equitable footing. I’m talking about reparations as a form of structural change. The United States through systemic oppression has underinvested in the well-being of Black America.

About this point you may be screaming “but what about Affirmative Action?!” Go ahead and file that in the same category as Black History Month and our first Black President. The Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) has outlined just the sort of transformative changes we need. BYP100 recently launched their “Agenda to Build Black Futures,” which points to necessary work we all have to do. Is the BYP100 agenda ambitious? Yep! Is it necessary to bring needed change through public policy? You bet your Black History Month it is.

To learn more about BYP100 check them out on Facebook or find resources for “Agenda to Build Black Futures” here.

Jasmine Banks is a freelance writer and small business owner who writes about everything and nothing at all at justjasmineblog.com. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter as @Djazzo.

Image via Wikimedia Commons/CC License

  • GWS Jr.

    Jasmine, I consider myself a pretty intelligent fellow, and I saw your title and stopped by to read your article, fully expecting to be irritated at more petty racist crap that floats around. But you know what? You are smarter than me. Because you sucked this white guy in with your title, which wasn’t misleading, and I was rewarded with a thought provoking article. I’m VERY pleased to say you made some tough but righteous statements and I can’t disagree with parts of it, but others I do. But that wasn’t the point, was it? We’re not meant to see eye to eye in this article, because if we were, society might be a more enjoyable place for all. Hopefully we can get there. God Bless.

  • wynotme307

    With all due respect, you might want to look at this site. It actually has facts about blacks that most do not know.
    http://Www.blackpast.org

    While it is true that segregation separated the USA before the CivilmRights movement, dr. King would be appaled at the result of his hard work. Being a man of peace, he sought for real equality. Not the victimization and racism we have today. He did not say or imply that one race should be granted an advantage over another, but that we would be equal in all ways. It is impossible to give ‘reparations’ to one group without taking them from someone else.
    The black community still has a long ways to go in defining itself as equal. They do not help their cause by calling for exceptions created for them, and them alone. Rather, they should create and provide their own services. For example, Dr Carson could start making low interest loans to black entrepreneurs to start businesses in black communities. When the Railraod was completed in SanFransico, the Asians suffered the same discrimination. They built Chinatown. There is no reason, fifty years after the civil rights era, that black communities should be on public housing and givernment assistance. Where is ‘Little Africa’? Where are the businesses? And more importantly, where are the people that would support those businesses?

    • Maliqah

      There can’t be a little Africa when Black people in America that are descendants of the slave trade dint have the knowledge of their ancestral and cultural history. It was beaten out of the slaves not to be passed down. Secondly Africa is not a country. It is a continent. China is a country and the Chinese in America knew their culture, enabling them to replicate it. Once when black neighborhoods were prosperous they were attacked from every angle from the White house right down to the neighboring white communities.

      • wynotme307

        Who ever told you that was lieing, and promoting racism. Whether it is black on white, or white on black doesn’t matter racism is just that. An intolerance of another race.

        That post is 5 months old, and I’m not going to Reveiw it. See you on the next article.

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