Black History Month 2019

My readings and musings on Black History Month:

Gone but not forgotten: New York Times Overlooked: “These remarkable black men and women never received obituaries in The New York Times — until now. We’re adding their stories to our project about prominent people whose deaths were not reported by the newspaper.”

Black history is gay history, too: Out Magazine pledge to run stories throughout Black History Month about notable Black and Queer historical figures. This is great! However it doesn’t seem that the website has a collection of these articles anywhere, which would be nice. But the magazine in general is doing a good job of reporting stories on diverse populations.

The Huffington Post posted a slide show of images of Black and queer “icons,” which was really cool. I learned about some people I didn’t know about before, but I might have included some others here: Bessie Smith, Lorraine Hansberry, Lena Waithe, Janelle Monae, and I was recently reminded of the story of Ruth Ellis (1899-2000), one of the oldest living lesbians in America. I’m sure there are more I’m not thinking of now (please feel free to leave names in the comments).

In addition to these stories, I came across some lesser-known Black histories including:

Paul Delaney, the first Black reporter for the New York Times, didn’t want to be the only one, so he advocated for and paved the way for others to follow in his footsteps.

Here are 23 Black Women Scientists who we should know about.

The story of Madam C.J. Walker, the first self-made Black woman millionaire, will soon be amplified in an upcoming Netflix series starring Octavia Butler. I am eagerly awaiting that!

This article from the New Yorker in 2017 about Pauli Murray (1910-1985) makes you wonder why her life and legacy are not more widely known. As the article states, “Murray’s lifelong fate [was] to be both ahead of her time and behind the scenes.” She may not be a household name, but she has been sainted by the Episcopal church, and there is a residential college named after her at Harvard.

Finally, during these first couple of weeks of Black History Month, I have come across some articles about racism, with some advice about how not to be racist, or how to think about racism and white supremacy in ways that don’t excuse anyone from their own responsibility and complicitness. Apparently we have to learn these lessons continuously, or rather, we need these lessons incessantly because we are apparently not learning. It is 2019 and white people are STILL doing blackface and think it’s okay (until they are called on it), or think it was somehow okay when they did it in college in the 1980s (and they’ll defend themselves with the “it was a different time” excuse, even though it really wasn’t okay even then). So here are a few more articles about how to do it better:

“There is no such thing as a Nonracist,” an interview with Ibram Kendi. “It’s very difficult to grow up in a country or even a world that’s constantly raining racist ideas on your head and to never get wet.” Even well-meaning and nice people who recognize that racism is bad are viewing the world through a racist lens. The only way we  can build a more just and equitable world is if every person takes responsibility for their internalized racism, recognizes it and consciously, mindfully, intentionally works to change it within themselves.

Hey, White people! Robin DiAngelo has some suggestions for how you can understand yourselves and your penchant for defensiveness when it comes to talking about race and racism. As it turns out, White liberals are the worst about this! Often, we lack the skills or self-knowledge that might enable us to act in ways that are less terrible, less racist. Her book, White Fragility, will help to enlighten more of us about exactly how white privilege manifests itself in our lives. “Combatting one’s inner voices of racial prejudice, sneaky and, at times, irresistibly persuasive, is a life’s work. ”

When you are tempted to say defensively “I’m not racist,” try instead to say, more positively “I’m an antiracist.”

And finally finally, “Dear White People, stop making racism all about you.”


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