Flip-Flopper: Why I’m Against Black History Month…and For It (Part 3)

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Flip-Flopper: Why I'm Against Black History Month...and For It (Part 3)

by baldilocks

Why White Peo­ple Should Care

Many per­sons believe that the his­tory of black Amer­i­cans is worth­less — a belief which stems from three fac­tors: 1) that much of widely-​known African his­tory and the his­tory of Amer­i­cans who are black con­sists of vic­tim­iza­tion: litany of fail­ures, slav­ery, oppres­sion, colo­nial­ism and per­ceived lack of inno­va­tion, 2) that some black Amer­i­cans use the Amer­i­can his­tory of slav­ery and oppres­sion to induce white guilt, and 3) that some black Amer­i­cans use the same as an excuse for per­sonal failure.

But if it is impor­tant that we know the his­tory of our country’s found­ing and the impor­tant polit­i­cal, mil­i­tary, reli­gious and social move­ments which have shaped this nation’s char­ac­ter — this nation’s peo­ple – then the well-​informed cit­i­zen can­not escape this cat­e­gory of that his­tory; to attempt to do so would be to sep­a­rate black Amer­i­cans from the rest of our coun­try­men once again.

Exam­ple: There has been much ado in recent years about the hymn Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, col­lo­qui­ally known since the 1940s as the Negro National Anthem. Many who had not known of the song, its ori­gin, its sig­nif­i­cance or its infor­mal role among black Amer­i­cans, have mis­in­ter­preted it as some sort of repu­di­a­tion of white­ness and/​or America-​as-​founded (a notion which has been exac­er­bated by actual repu­di­a­tors of white­ness). But the mer­est bit of inves­ti­ga­tion into all of these areas and the deploy­ment of some his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive reveal that John Rosa­mond John­son and James Wel­don John­son com­posed the song as an anthem to God and to a nation which con­tem­po­ra­ne­ously excluded black Americans.

But like any other tool–books and ban­ners, for exam­ple – songs can be used for good, neu­tral, and evil pur­poses. That fact is sep­a­rate from the intrin­sic good, neu­tral­ity or evil of the spec­i­fied tool, but with­out nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion — with­out his­tory — the truth gets lost and the tool become a blud­geon, and that is what has hap­pened to Lift.

At the begin­ning of for­mer Den­ver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s annual State of the City address in 2008 (a pre­lude to the Demo­c­ra­tic National Con­ven­tion of that year), there was a major brouhaha regard the song when a singer named Rene Marie sang it in place of the Star-​Spangled Ban­ner, rather than in the usual order which the song is ren­dered—after The National Anthem.

At two sep­a­rate blogs–Hot Air and Bre­it­bart, I pro­vided back­ground on the song. The hosts were cor­dial and will­ing to receive new infor­ma­tion. The com­menters, how­ever, were a dif­fer­ent story. I was attacked by some com­menters at both sites, but I didn’t take the igno­rance and bla­tant racial slurs per­son­ally from the Bre­it­bart com­menters since I rarely com­ment there, though I sus­pect that Andrew was turn­ing in his grave.

But with the Hot Air com­menters, how­ever, the sit­u­a­tion was very painful, since I was a reg­u­lar com­menter there and both Ed Mor­ris­sey and Allah­pun­dit had occa­sion­ally fea­tured posts from my old blog. There were no racial slurs, but being called a liar by peo­ple who “know” me was shocking.

The most shock­ing thing about the two episodes, how­ever, was that so few of the com­menters had even heard of the song – a song which I can’t recall not knowing.

I’ve had a num­ber of years to think about this and I’ve come to this con­clu­sion: most of us — mean­ing most Amer­i­cans – like to cel­e­brate the good parts of our country’s his­tory, but we often ignore the parts which might make us uncom­fort­able or cause us to reach uncom­fort­able con­clu­sions about other Americans.

And most peo­ple don’t want to be guilt-tripped…especially for the actions of oth­ers. So it is that much of black Amer­i­can his­tory is ignored by other Amer­i­cans, espe­cially white ones. But this type of knowl­edge gap has allowed the orig­i­nally apo­lit­i­cal song to be used by all man­ner of polit­i­cal oppor­tunists, all Left­ist in nature.

Well, if you are afraid of being guilt-​tripped, then I don’t know what to tell you, because any­one with a strong sense of self-​discipline and strong attach­ment to truth can refuse inap­pro­pri­ate guilty feel­ings. And that same devo­tion to truth should make such peo­ple hun­gry for both the good and uncom­pli­men­tary his­tory of a group peo­ple who are the most Amer­i­can of Americans.

“What would hap­pen if there was a White His­tory Month?”

This often-​deployed rhetor­i­cal response to Black His­tory Month always betrays a lack of his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive and an abil­ity to be guilt-​tripped. (If some­one wanted to cre­ate a White His­tory Month why should they care what any­one thinks?) I would applaud any indi­vid­ual who actu­ally made an attempt to cre­ate such a cul­tural totem. Why?

Because, my fel­low Amer­i­cans who are white: your his­tory is my history…and mine, yours. Let’s all act like it.

RELATED:

Black His­tory Lessons from the GOP

PRE­VI­OUSLY:

Flip-​Flopper: Why I’m Against Black His­tory Month…and For It (Part 2)
Flip-​Flopper: Why I’m Against Black His­tory Month…and For It (Part 1)

Juli­ette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was pub­lished in 2009; the sec­ond edi­tion in 2012. Her new novel, Arlen’s Harem, is due in early 2014. Help her fund it and help keep her blog alive!

by baldilocks

Why White People Should Care

Many persons believe that the history of black Americans is worthless—a belief which stems from three factors: 1) that much of widely-known African history and the history of Americans who are black consists of victimization: litany of failures, slavery, oppression, colonialism and perceived lack of innovation, 2) that some black Americans use the American history of slavery and oppression to induce white guilt, and 3) that some black Americans use the same as an excuse for personal failure.

But if it is important that we know the history of our country’s founding and the important political, military, religious and social movements which have shaped this nation’s character—this nation’s people–then the well-informed citizen cannot escape this category of that history; to attempt to do so would be to separate black Americans from the rest of our countrymen once again.

Example: There has been much ado in recent years about the hymn Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, colloquially known since the 1940s as the Negro National Anthem. Many who had not known of the song, its origin, its significance or its informal role among black Americans, have misinterpreted it as some sort of repudiation of whiteness and/or America-as-founded (a notion which has been exacerbated by actual repudiators of whiteness). But the merest bit of investigation into all of these areas and the deployment of some historical perspective reveal that  John  Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson  composed the song as an anthem to God and to a nation which contemporaneously excluded black Americans.

But like any other tool–books and banners, for example–songs can be used for good, neutral, and evil purposes. That fact is separate from the intrinsic good, neutrality or evil of the specified tool, but without necessary information—without history—the truth gets lost and the tool become a bludgeon, and that is what has happened to Lift.

At the beginning of former Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s annual State of the City address in 2008 (a prelude to the Democratic National Convention of that year), there was a major brouhaha regard the song when a singer named Rene Marie sang it in place of the Star-Spangled Banner, rather than in the usual order which the song is rendered—after The National Anthem.

At two separate blogs–Hot Air and Breitbart, I provided background on the song. The hosts were cordial and willing to receive new information. The commenters, however, were a different story.  I was attacked by some commenters at both sites, but I didn’t take the ignorance and blatant racial slurs personally from the Breitbart commenters since I rarely comment there, though I suspect that Andrew was turning in his grave.

But with the Hot Air commenters, however, the situation was very painful, since I was a regular commenter there and both Ed Morrissey and Allahpundit had occasionally featured posts from my old blog.  There were no racial slurs, but being called a liar by people who “know” me was shocking.

The most shocking thing about the two episodes, however, was that so few of the commenters had even heard of the song–a song which I can’t recall not knowing.

I’ve had a number of years to think about this and I’ve come to this conclusion: most of us—meaning most Americans–like to celebrate the good parts of our country’s history, but we often ignore the parts which might make us uncomfortable or cause us to reach uncomfortable conclusions about other Americans.

And most people don’t want to be guilt-tripped…especially for the actions of others. So it is that much of black American history is ignored by other Americans, especially white ones. But this type of knowledge gap has allowed the originally apolitical song to be used by all manner of political opportunists, all Leftist in nature.

Well, if you are afraid of being guilt-tripped, then I don’t know what to tell you, because anyone with a strong sense of self-discipline and strong attachment to truth can refuse inappropriate guilty feelings. And that same devotion to truth should make such people hungry for both the good and uncomplimentary history of a group people who are the most American of Americans.

“What would happen if there was a White History Month?”

This often-deployed rhetorical response to Black History Month always betrays a lack of historical perspective and an ability to be guilt-tripped. (If someone wanted to create a White History Month why should they care what anyone thinks?) I would applaud any individual who actually made an attempt to create such a cultural totem. Why?

Because, my fellow Americans who are white: your history is my history…and mine, yours. Let’s all act like it.

RELATED:

 Black History Lessons from the GOP

PREVIOUSLY:

Flip-Flopper: Why I’m Against Black History Month…and For It (Part 2)
Flip-Flopper: Why I’m Against Black History Month…and For It (Part 1)

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2009; the second edition in 2012. Her new novel, Arlen’s Harem, is due in early 2014. Help her fund it and help keep her blog alive!