Blackie History Month

And it’s a leap year!! I feel like we should do something remarkable… this is the one day of the year that doesn’t come every year! We should do… something. Something epic. It’s gotta hold us over for four years. We should also come up with a Leap Year Day logo. I had a “friend” in junior high (and I say “friend”…well, because it was junior high) who was born on February 29th and went around telling everyone she was only three years old. Good times. I guess it’s not the worst junior high memory I have. Still pretty lame though.

Completely changing subjects: Jenny (my sissy-wister) and I were just chatting about “African-American Lives”, an amazing special airing as installments on PBS this month (and which I need to order) about the ancestry of (mostly) prominent Black artists/entertainers/etc. One of the most intriguing was Don Cheadle – and not because of his sort of underwhelmed reaction – finding out that his ancestors had been enslaved not by White Americans but by Native Americans. The reason this is important to document, as Jenny and I were discussing, is because it demonstrates someone primarily seen as a noble victim exhibiting the same behavior as the oppressor. It really demonstrates how no person is immune to evil and definitely no group of people. It would be so easy to make up a bunch of excuses about this but, seeing as my family is Choctaw and Cherokee and both those tribes were slaveowners, I don’t really see the point. I’m not going to be angry anymore than I’ve ever been angry at White people but it’s definitely a surreal discovery. What was worse was how – since Native American reservations aren’t legally American soil – Emancipation didn’t extend to slaves owned by Natives for years, sometimes. Lovely, mon frere. Then Jenny was talking about the freedmen that were expelled from Native American tribes because they didn’t want to be associated. She probably told me this around the time the blond-haired white girl came into her office (she works at a university) to claim some benefit having to do with her native ancestry. ANYWHO. None of this was the most intriguing thing I’ve learned from this month’s PBS specials (which was about the original 11 Africans brought over) nor was it what I meant to talk about: in sociology, I think the most important thing about which to educate people is how social norms are engineered. That sounds obvious but it’s really not. (Neither apparently is the fact that saying something is engineered or socially constructed makes it no easier to destroy. Assuming such a thing makes people complacent and inactive, thinking things will work themselves out.) There was a clear point at which it was decided African servants could be treated differently from indentured servants, solely on the basis of exploitating their labor. Of course, such a difference would have to be tangible and obvious, ruling out religion and european nationality. Something on which cognitive dissonance could hang its hat, that is. The real problem is not having discussed this prior to higher education. The way slavery and our history is taught absolutely perpetuates racism because it is taught as matter-of-fact. Blacks were enslaved because they were Black. That undeniably implies that Blackness is at least inferior, if not a viable explanation for enslavement. Basically, the sociol psychology is entirely left out of social science in early education, but children don’t fail to infer meaning simply because you neglect to be thorough. This (the method of teaching history) may be the greatest factor in figuring out how to undo the lessons learned in this agency of socialization as well as the identities our society creates! … I’m really amped about this, if you hadn’t noticed.

I heart critical analysis.

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