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Does Obama’s Presidency Add another Chapter to Black History Month, or make it Obsolete?

 

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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.

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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 pointblankdta@yahoo.com

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3 Comments on "Does Obama’s Presidency Add another Chapter to Black History Month, or make it Obsolete?"

  1. Hi, Chris, insightful comments about Black History Month. I'm not sure what is the point Tony is making here, but the celebration of Black History Month is much more than just a month of remembering black achievements. The Negro Society for Historical Research founded in 1911, founding members, Arthur A. Schomburg and John E. Bruce during this period would showcase items from their private book collections on blacks, some times lasting for a week. Dr. Carter G. Woodson got the idea for Negro History Week from these exhibits the early black bibliophiles organized to show their documents. If Mr. Tony peruses any school curriculum, the history of the white groups pervasive while black history continues as a footnote or distorted. How else does one explan the continue subjugation of black people in the U.S? As for Barack Obama, he is the first black president far from being a radical certainly among our most educated ones. Yes, he is mixed but Dr. Henry Louis gates in his research found few blacks in the U.S are pure anymore mixed more with whites than we would like to admit. That's why novelist Ismael Reed purports this subject needs to be revisisted in African-American history.

  2. Just an “an empty suit” huh? How you like him now? The man is a legislative workhorse (over 90 pieces of legislation that will benefit the US for years to come). This just continues his streak of lawmaking he started as a State and US Senator in IL (780 laws written, 280 passed. Hows your Senators doing?). As for Steele, yeah you all were sure crazy about him, mmm, mmm, mmm.

    Now as for this bunk that you want me to swallow about Obama being then-called a “Monkey” early on in his administration, and his receiving a higher-than-normal amount of death threats (it's almost 3 years in and he's still getting them) not being based on race? I understand your wish that they not be about race, but it only shows me how gullible you are. You remind me of that reality show family that painted/or surgically made themselves black and went out into the world, got immediately dissed, harassed, or ignored several times over AND came back making excuses for the whites who didn't know that they were actually white in reality with brain-dead comments like 'oh maybe they were just having a bad day, etc.'

    You are free to accept that if you choose, but don't try and tell me or any blacks whether or not, or how much racism still exists in this country. It's condesending (spelling), paternalistic, and insulting.

    You may not be racist, but you are one of many racist-enablers, which makes you Even More Dangerous!

  3. Oh Chris, Chris, Chris. I just finished reading your piece about black history month and I felt compelled to write to you again. I disagree with how Cynthia Tucker arrived at her conclusion, but I could not agree more with her conclusion. There is no more a need for black history month than there is a need for white, Italian, Polish, or American Indian history month. I for one do not need a specific month to celebrate some of the great achievements of black people in our country. I can and do celebrate their achievements year round. If we go with your logic it seems as though black people are only worthy of one month out of the year to remember some of their great achievements. Furthermore, I do not consider Barack Obama the first black U.S. president. He is the first mixed race president, but you will never hear that in main stream media outlets because it does not fit their template. I am sure you can agree with me that if Mr. Obama were white that we would be talking about President Clinton or McCain right now. He (Obama), is at best an empty suit, and at worst a radical who thinks as you do. Sure he can talk a good game with a teleprompter but he is no leader; he would make a better spokesperson for someone else. If his first two months in office are anything like we can expect for the next three and a half years, this county is in DEEP trouble and sinking fast! Class warfare has never worked and it will not work this time either. I am sure you are a smart guy, but you are a purveyor of racism and racist remarks. Without racism in America I believe that individuals such as you and someone like the good ole Reverend Al Sharpton would be irrelevant. So you try to keep racism alive by writing about how the evil neo-cons keep you and your people down. Sure there are racist white people, but certainly there are racist black people. Why do you give them a pass? If you were truly a champion of black individuals and black history why would bemoan the likes of Alan Keyes, Condi Rice, Clarence Thomas, Michael Steele etc. and their acomplishments? You do not celebrate them because they do not think like you, and they do not blame white people for everything that went wrong in their life. Plus they are conservatives, and do not have an entitlement attitude like you and so many others. Instead of trying to keep our people down with this us against them mentality, why do you not try to empower them to do things for themselves and pave their own way in life instead of waiting for a handout. Obama may be receiving a higher than normal amount of death threats and being called a monkey but, and I know this is hard for you to swallow it is not because he is black, it is because he is a clueless community organizer who was put into office because he has celebrity statues, not the skills to be the leader of the free world.Tony

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