February 11, 2007

Black Heritage Month

We celebrate Black Heritage this month in schools and colleges all over the country, and yet there is A Girl Like Me . Watch this 7 minute documentary to get a feel of what it means to grow up 'black' in this country.

The documentary confirms that no amount of media propaganda, or the classroom readings about famous African Americans can really make a significant difference in the lives of young black males and females who grow up, still perceiving themselves as victims, or as being inferior to another. Why does that continue to happen, and how does one change that? How do you develop a 'self esteem'? What does it take to feel better, to feel comfortable with who you are? Is it even possible to grow and then nurture a 'self esteem'? Why do some groups have this 'self esteem', and others don't, or if they do, why is it such a fragile commodity?

The answers to these questions would also justify the overusage of the word 'heritage' in this very young nation. Why are we so obsessed with peoples past, their 'heritage'; defined in the dictionary as "something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth; an inherited lot or portion". The past is important in only so far as it lends meaning and purpose to our present. To get fixated on a past that only serves to fragment the present and does not in any way strengthen a people, is a past worth letting go of. This may sound harsh and extreme, but it may still be something worth trying. To lend weight to my argument I'd like to quote Maya Angelou, an African American of respected and proven mettle, who also believes that 'beauty' in a person is directly related to taking accountability for ones present:

12 comments:

moontalk said...

no matter how much we harp about living for the momment, the fact is that the past always weighs u down. its not jus us past, but that of the millions born before u. when someone tells u that the country u were born in, the only one u ever lived in, is not ur heritage, but some far off place that u only have heard of, is not only confusing, but also unfair.
ur heritage, should be something that u take from ur past, not something that is imposed on u.
roots on their own are useless, they need something that grows on them

starry nights said...

Interesting post for Black Heritage month.I believe in what Maya Angelou says.I am a big fan of her poems.But I think no matter how hard the person tries, the past always comes back to haunt them.sometimes thee is no running away.That does not mean we should dwell on the past but we should take responsibility for our actions and ourselves.

pRicky said...

you know what if truth be told in this case past and the origins of heritage are merely utilised for purely poiltical reasons...
to employ the territorial rules of original citizenship and acceptance

lash said...

"I swear to the Lord
I still can't see
Why Democracy means
Everybody but me."
- Black Man Speaks by Hughes

lash said...

13 out of 21 kids picked the white doll... so the inclination is innate.. that pretty much proves how it all started... So its human nature to pick white and dump dark.. but we have a problem here, we had asked kids to pick the doll.. that is probably a superficial liking that they have for the doll.. he initial one, in the end they might come and pick the black for some other reason... so this experiment has to be done on adults, not with dolls but with something else similar.. i guess that discretion has more weightage than that of kids...

sharique said...

History is something every culture is proud of but then, as mentioned by you, what about civilizations who don't have a respectable history? Will they bear its burden for many many generations?
Well can we really forget about our history? But I think the discrimination has more to do with skin colour rather than history. Imagine a world where the black would have been powerful and the whites slave...things today would have been different right?

eshuneutics said...

Tricky one this. I tend to agree with you that paying lip-service for one month (the same happens in the UK) has little impact on racial identity. Also, it is about time that education moved on and stopped seeing racial identity as possessing knowledge about a so-called "heritage". Having said this, however, I do not see the past as an agent of fragmentation, nor would I see Black History as a negative that prevents cultural and social binding.

Id it is said...

eshu,
I certainly don't "see Black History as a negative" and I do believe that a people's history does and could bring about "cultural and social binding". My worry is that reminising on a past so traumatic and so painful often makes old wounds bleed. Instead, if we were to focus on what is, and make the most of what's within our power to change or affect, we'd be the happier for it, and more secure too. We'd then look at our immediate accomplishments, and that would give us a self esteem that is not borrowed or inherited and is now ours to nurture.

My post was not intended to belittle or take away from the rich and illustrious black history, it was merely to garner support for young African Americans who need guidance and support to be who they want to be.

eshuneutics said...

I didn't think that you did mean it negatively. In the UK, schools tend to do slavery, and slavery, and yet more slavery. Not that anyone would want to play down the immense wrongs...but the problem is that Black History contains more than this and there isn't much healing that comes from this terrible wound. Something that troubled me recently was this: for Black History Month a High School invited in a notable key speaker. No one checked who he actually was-- as a result a contingent of Black pupils with vulnerable minds were exposed to Black right-wing propagandist history. That didn't do much healing either! The propaganda played on White lies that were really Black lies. The UK education system is incredibly naive. I don't think that your post belittles the issue at all and agree with you that a month of picking old wounds annually is not a healthy education method. Maya Angelou was right to argue the NOW and the need to be alert to the NOW or racism creeps through the back door; as you point out.

Id it is said...

eshu,
I marvel at the lucidity with which you articulate thoughts. Thank you for lending finesse to my edgy and blunt post.

Id it is said...

eshu,
That was exactly my point; we have to let go of that which is not working and look for other ways to empower these young people. As for inviting a speaker to a high school without checking out his credential is unforgivable. The person could play havoc on those impressionable minds!

The 'now' is perhaps our best hope, and we have to push for it regardless of how much it may take away from the much celebrated 'heritage', if that is the case at all.

EXSENO said...

O.k. let me take a stab at this.
First of all if anything this younger generations should be able to take pride in their heritage. Look how far their people have come or perhaps I should say 'over come'.
They have many great black role models to look up to such as Maya Angelou and Martin Luther King and what about Opah.
If I viewed the same video that you saw, then I heard something else in their words. It wasn't just about their heritage. I heard this "my skin is too dark" "My hair is to frizzy", etc. These my be words about having black characteristics, but more then that I think they are words that say, I'm insecure, I don't like myself and this is not a trait that is exclusive to the blacks.
When they learn to love theirselves just the way they are and for who they are and make the most of it, they will project that confidence to others.
Everyone can not have alabaster skin, blue eyes and blonde hair and everyone is certainly not beautiful. Beauty comes from within.
So to those girls who are black I say, girls make the most of your dark skin and your frizzy hair and look in the mirror and tell yourself everyday that you love yourself until you believe it. When you believe it you will project that confidence onto others and as you see yourself diferently so will they because your lovely personality will make you shine.
I know from experience, I was the only little Greek girl in my neighborhood and everyone new I was different. Oh how I longed to have that cute little pug nose.