Archive for the ‘native americans’ tag
In a Feb. 8, 2009 column, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Cynthia Tucker supplied her view of Black History Month, dubbing it, “quaint, jarring, anachronistic.”
Coming from a black person, this comment itself may sound jarring. But it’s really not. As Tucker notes, even after Carter G. Woodson’s original 1926 Negro History Week went into effect, black folks were still the but of racial epithets and racial acts. Lynchings were still imminent for many. Segregation was still very much in force. Then, as now, Black History Month or Week or whatever we want to call it, means little, for those recognitions do little to repair scars, smooth hatreds or open locked minds.
As a child, I certainly remember sitting through special lessons in class geared to teach us about the important contributions of black people through America’s history, from Stowe to Tubman to Douglas to Du Bois down to King and Jackson (Jess, not Michael, though Michael has made important contributions as well). But even then (although it probably didn’t occur to me at the time), it merely seemed like we were just throwing black folks a bone, as if to say, “Sorry about those 150 or so years of slavery and another 100-plus of oppression and inequality under the law. Here’s a month just for you. Enjoy!”
I wonder how black children or youths feel nowadays when it comes time for the lessons on black leaders throughout history. Do they feel proud? Undermined? Embarrassed? No doubt, those lessons are important and every child, black or white or brown or yellow should be well-grounded in our own history. But shouldn’t we now, in the 21st century with a black man holding the highest office in the land, move past all the silliness of giving certain groups special tokens simply for being a certain color? As the new president has continually stressed, black people’s history is so inextricably bound up with America’s history that none of us can escape it. And why would we want to?
Tucker also notes that many traditional textbooks “gloss over” certain ugly periods in our history like Jim Crow and Reconstruction and the Black Codes. I would say this is largely true. Frankly, I knew little, if anything, about Reconstruction, lynchings or Jim Crowe before going to college. Some of that lack of knowledge falls on me. I didn’t have the hunger for learning that I do now. But part of that falls on our educational system. I knew all about Black History Month, even as a tyke. But after that month was over, it was back to pilgrims, stage coaches and manifest destiny (Interestingly, we learned less about the human atrocities resulting from that “destiny.” We did, however, touch briefly on the Trail of Tears. Thousands of Native Americans relocated from their homes and thousands dead. But let’s quickly move on.)
In short, at this point in our history, we can now, and should, move past the necessity for Black History Month. Of course, as a white person, it seems tougher for me to theoretically and socially to say such a thing than it is for Tucker. But perhaps that’s the point. The fact that it seems harder for a white person to say that proves the point. It’s time to move on and integrate the history of black folks with the history of America, both in our textbooks and in our social conscious. Or, as Tucker concludes:
Americans young and old, black, white and brown, will understand that black history and the nation’s history are one and the same. — The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
What is the war on terror?
What defines it and at what point might we be able to declare “victory?”
One could suggest these questions might have been more relevant six or seven years ago when this debacle began after 9/11, but as we are still in a two-front war, still being affected globally by terrorism (See: Mumbai) and still hobbled under George W. Bush’s all-encompassing declaration of war on enemies both seen (mostly unseen), it’s still relevant today.
Frankly, I still don’t know what the war on terror means. I understand it’s an active roundup of people who seek to do harm on an international scale to innocents (For the record, the “Allied” forces have killed an estimated 90,000-97,000 civilian Iraqis since 2003.) and to catch those regimes who seek to intimidate and bully governments with which they don’t agree, but terrorism has existed since the Earth cooled (Possibly, but only possibly, is this an overstatement).
A few of many examples include:
- The Crusades
- The slaughter/scattering of the Native Americans
- John Brown, the Sons of Liberty, the Ku Klux Klan, the Irish Republican Army and numerous examples from the Cold War
Thus, terrorism is not a new thing. It wasn’t created on 9/11. And most importantly, it’s not a thing we can wrap our minds, our hands or our guns around. It’s a ubiquitous thing. Like the war on drugs, it’s so ubiquitous that we can’t even imagine it’s eventual victory. Acts of terror have pervaded for centuries. The fact that we are just now in the 21st century declaring a “war” on it precludes nothing from its history.
What does “victory” look like? What would that mean?
One supposes that it means eradicating those in the world who seek to do us (Us, meaning not only Americans, but innocents around the world) harm. But how does one carry this out to its end? To declare war presupposes that said war predicates an enemy and the possibility of victory over that enemy.
But we don’t have a clearly defined enemy. We have a group of erratic, ever-shifting, ever-evolving group of networks. They have no defined “nation” and no defined “allegiance.” Unless that allegiance is said to be to Allah. And if that’s the case, we are waging a war, ultimately, against a mythical god. One can see, then, how the war on terror, taken to its extreme, can appear wholly absurd, and not only ubiquitous, but otherworldly. For, if the god supposedly served by radical Islamic terrorists orders its subjects to kill infidels (or to kill anyone) in its holy text is not worthy to be served, praised or even acknowledged.
Moreover, the War on Terror is like a giant, never-ending escape clause, excusing us from the guilt of all kinds of atrocities that otherwise would not be put up with. When will this mythical war end? What defines its victory? What does victory even mean? It’s not a war against Iraq or a war against Afghanistan. It’s a war against an ideal, an intangible. At this point, we can not predict its end. And if we somehow knew what victory would mean, we shudder at its far-reaching, centuries-long consequences.