by Chris Stevenson
Every now and then some prominent black figure begins to get a little too comfortable in their little individual positions and cute with their opinions until they eventually voice some pretty damaging comments. When this happens the first thing they target is the thing they’ve been trained (usually unknowingly, which belies their high education) over the course of time and close relationships with whites to feel ashamed of; Black History Month. A couple of years ago it was actor Morgan Freeman, today’s attack on our hard-fought month comes from a well-known journalist. Not just any writer but a syndicated columnist and powerful head of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution’s (AJC) op-ed page; Cynthia Tucker.
Her 2/8 piece “Time to turn the page on Black History Month” is one of the most tragically brainwashed or brain dead columns I have ever had the displeasure of reading. It’s bothersome enough that this black female head of one of the nation’s most powerful papers (does she even realize the dwindling number of black writers in the major newsrooms?) has a problem with Black History Month, it’s the bizarre rationale that she uses to support her argument that upsets me. It seems that to her, the need of labeling any month as Black History Month becomes obsolete with the realization of just one benchmark; the transition to a black US President.
Columnist Cynthia Tucker
Having never met this Sista I never thought just how trivial and expendable our struggle was to her. I never knew how meaningless our record of accomplishments were to her. I never knew how our collective pride could be so easily compromised at the water cooler of large major white papers. Does she want to eliminate Martin Luther King’s Birthday as a national holiday too? After all, we got a black President. Everything’s fine now right Cynthia?
Her column cites the openly racist climate of past decades as sole justification of the need of Negro History Week back then, she then does what too many successful blacks do, undergo voluntary naivete: “When Carter G. Woodson launched Negro History Week in 1926 black Americans were still lynched with impunity across the south, black students (like herself) attended inferior segregated schools and black patrons were not allowed to stay in hotels in Montgomery or Memphis. There were no black baseball players in the Major Leagues, no black cabinet secretaries in any presidential administrations and no black generals or admirals in the armed forces… so 80 years later, Woodson’s Negro History Week-now Black History Month-seems quaint, jarring, anachronistic. The county has undergone such seismic cultural shifts in the intervening 8 decades that it’s sometimes difficult to recognize the landscape into which Woodson was born. Suffice to say that the nation of Tiger Woods, Oprah and Barack Obama doesn’t need a Black History Month.”
Let’s examine 2 words Tucker uses against Black History Month; Quaint: according to Webster’s “Charmingly old-fashioned.” Anachronism-same dictionary: “The representation of something as existing or happening at other than it’s proper or historical time.” Suffice to say, that whenever some so-called member of the black intelligentsia starts using words like “quaint” to trivialize the things our forefathers fought hard for, then you can rest assured that black intellectual has become fat.
Ms. Tucker imposed the word “anachronism” to Black History Month and if you notice, she kept referring to it in it’s former title “Negro History Week.” She’s the anachronism. Maybe she’s angling for her own cable reality show; ‘The Stupid Black Columnist Woman of Atlanta.’ What is she smoking? Cynthia, Cynthia, listen to me, when Carter G. Woodson saw the need to create Negro History Week he wasn’t just looking at his own present day climate. It’s safe to reason he looked at the whole spectrum of black history as it related to world history and realized how important it was to blacks in his era and successive era’s to know themselves and their true story… It wasn’t something conditional that he felt would be rendered useless at the key accomplishment of a black individual or relative handful of black individuals. Otherwise just your 1990 promotion to the head of the AJC’s Editorial Page cancels out the need for Black History Month as well.
I’m sure Woodson knew there would be a Tiger Woods or an Oprah or a Michael Jordan and maybe even an Obama that would come along long after he was gone. His main mission was obviously to help impart self-esteem through historical references to black youths in particular, much in the same way Jewish, Italian, Irish, and Asian people do. Those other ethnic groups and races put great priority on their history as well but since their history has never been denied them, it has never been an issue or need to officially name a White History Month etc. This is where some blacks have allowed themselves to become confused, just try and talk a Jew out of emphasizing his or her history and see if you’re still being nominated for Pulitzers. Go ahead, just try.
Much of this seems to be just about Ms. Tucker and her personal outlook that she wishes to impose on other blacks. She sees the country as having undergone “seismic cultural shifts in the intervening 8 decades that it is sometimes difficult to recognize the landscape into which Woodson was born.” I didn’t think Cynthia was that old but what do I know. Let’s see if I understand this correctly, Ms. Tucker has witnessed black bodies swinging from trees back in Carter G. Woodson’s day and since then there has been a seismic shift and she now sees white bodies swinging from trees today. Therefore we must eliminate Negro Historrr… Black History Month. Somehow Cynthia thought the lynching stopped. It didn’t. First of all the nations police forces are now doing the lynching, and even so, you never deny your historical month just based on some hints of outside acceptance from non-blacks. That seems to be the undercurrent of Tucker’s message; a personal assimilationist message that suggest you won’t get invited to suburban dinner parties if you still celebrate that Black History Month and if that’s true then it’s a very selfish outlook because it fails to recognize a huge black middle-class and underclass who desperately need Black History Month.
Tucker also likens Black History Month to “an old-fashioned appendage, like rabbit ears on a TV… a damaging form of Apartheid, setting the contributions of black Americans aside as separate and unequal.” Now where have we heard that argument before? That’s right, white conservative pundits who use this trick psychology to talk blacks out of the importance of black history or anything they see blacks gaining as a group. It’s mostly intelligence-insulting rhetoric and I previously thought someone of the stature of Tucker was too smart to buy into it. I’ve been wrong before.
Strangely enough Sista Tucker then contradicts herself: “That’s not to suggest that mainstream America has acknowledged the historic record of it’s black citizens…” Oh really, what happened to that seismic shift? These are all rationale that she’s been using to suggest that it’s time to turn the page on Black History Month. I can spell it out in simple terms, if your black President is receiving death threats at record pace and is openly being called a monkey by major newspapers and politicians, then you still need a Black History Month. Obama’s tenure simply adds another glorious page to black history and yes American history To those like my fellow journalist Cynthia Tucker, I say stop trying to invite us to your quaint indifference parties.
Chris Stevenson is a columnist for the Buffalo Challenger. Contact him at email@example.com