Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Black History Month

Yeah, I know it's over. I'm only now commenting about it because I performed on Saturday Night at a Black History Month event and the hostess, a Japanese girl by the way, asked me what Black History Month meant to me.

I didn't grow up with Black History Month. See, I'm from a tiny Caribbean island where 94% of the population is black, so all history is black history. Our country was founded by black people. All our leaders since Independence (from England) have been black, and you are more likely to face discrimination in society on account of being white, Asian, Indian, etc, or on account of your social class.

I've obviously been a black female my entire life. But coming from a country where both blacks and females are an empowered majority, I really had no idea what that meant until I relocated to the US for college back in 2000. And suddenly, I was a minority.

I suddenly had to readjust my thinking for people who spoke to me or didn't, hung out with me or didn't, liked me or didn't, just because of the colour of my skin.

I also discovered Black History Month, an opportunity for the oppressed race to celebrate their history. But for me Black History Month raises as many issues as it solves. I appreciate that black people need a time when they can celebrate their heroes, but I think separation is separation. How far along the pro-black continuum can you go before you're anti-white?

And then the whole back to Africa thing... Okay, we came from Africa. Like 400 years ago. Why should we claim a percentage of the culture? Want to go back to Africa? Be my guest! Think you'll fit in? Really? Race is skin-deep. SKIN-DEEP! It's great to know where you come from, but do you really want to go back? Don't you think that would be culture shock to the nth degree?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not calling Africa uncivilised. It's just differently civilised. I mean that. I live in Japan. Noone would call Japan uncivilised, but I can't even begin to count the number of things here that make me say, "Come on! This is absolute madness, now!" When you're raised to think of yourself as an individual, you can't just switch to thinking that you ony exist as part of a collective whole. In the same way, if you're raised to think that people should do certain things, have certain possessions, use certain standards to measure others, etc, that does not just go away.

So on the whole, I guess this is what I'm saying: I get it. I get why it's important to know where you came from. I get why it affects who you are. But I firmly believe that mucking about in the past, isn't doing a damned thing to improve today.

Plus, you don't see the white folk trynna go back to Scandinavia.

Just sayin'.


Adam Heine said...

I know this is an old post, but I found it really interesting. Especially your point of how race is only skin deep. My wife is Thai, raised in America. Here in Thailand we often hear comments about he she is not "true Thai" because she struggles with the language or because she is a Christian--that's not even touching the differences in ways of thinking (American vs. Thai).

Thanks for the thoughtful post.

Claire Dawn said...

You're welcome. It's interesting the ways people find to differentiate and group themselves and others.