When I was in high school, I had classmates whose parents forbid them to attend school the day after Barack Obama was elected. We were told by teachers, aides, principals, and the like (both black and white) to remove all Obama stickers and paraphernalia from our bags and clothing in fear of inciting a riot. The most I recall any of us black students doing is singing “My President is Black” by Young jeezy. But our joy came with threats of suspensions and being sent home.
We were not afforded an opportunity to watch the inauguration…We were not allowed to be publicly happy that someone who looked like us was sitting in one of the most influential seats in the world. We were not allowed to praise black success or display black pride… being proud of current black history was too much. Yet we could proudly romanticize slavery and white supremacy. We learned about our “forefathers”, the American Revolution, and the Renaissance era. We took many field trips to old plantations and none to the black history museum. (In fact, I was unaware we had a local museum until a few years ago.) we learned about a few black leaders during black history month but only those deemed “acceptable” for our curriculum. we learned about black inventors, scientists, “our friend Martin”, and Rosa Parks…. and of course in the most sensible light .
My black is not acceptable. My black pride is not acceptable. Unfortunately, racism, bigotry, misogyny, and sexism is. When Barack Obama took office, people protested for very few reasons other than the color of his skin. The mass marches in the street today are not a result of fear and hate due to the color of the President’s skin but are about opposition to oppression & a method to bring awareness to the pursuit of equality. It’s about rejecting hate not inciting it. In 2009, Obama was not the President for many… In 2017, many reject Donald Trump’s election.
That following day after Obama was elected, we were taught what white sensibility is .. and we were taught to succumb to white supremacy in the face of opposition. we were taught that blackness is not a badge of honor. And that we aren’t supposed to be proud of how far we have come in fear of hurting someone else’s feelings or getting physically hurt. It’s the 21st century and it’s still a crime to be black & proud in America.
I wish I had known then what I know now. I wish I had been aware of the history of Malcom X, Charles Houston, Marcus Garvey, Assata Shakur, Bayard Rustin, Angela Davis, WEB Dubois, Booker T. Washington, and so many more. I wish I had been more knowledgeable of my rights as a student and a human being. But when you know better, you do better.
I’m not here to be sensible. I’m not here to be the “acceptable” negro. I respect individuals regardless of color… But if my blackness upsets you, I’m not sorry.