Typically, when I get an idea for a blog, I jot the idea down and know that I will work on it eventually. Usually, I am waiting for a sign to start writing or somehow, I intuitively know all the information I will need to make my point is not in just yet. Last week a picture of a journal entry written by a student named King started making its way around the internet, and I loved everything about it. While many rushed to write about the note, I waited because I wanted to add more to the conversation when it comes to teaching about Black History during Black History Month.
King’s teacher is disappointed? Oh no, “Educator.” You fail you realize that King just took you to school calling into question your false teachings. This is a topic that has been on my mind for quite a long time, and Sarah Sanders provided me with the cherry on top of my blog when she tweeted:
Really, Sarah? Thank you for making such a grandiose, self-serving tweet. We all know how you have shown yourself to be a beacon of justice when it comes to issues that affect Black people. *Insert major eye roll*
It seems Sarah is sticking to what Sarah does best- telling women to smile and lying. Sarah is great at giving fragments of information without telling the complete truth. What Sarah did is whitewash over the systemic racism that LED to the deaths of Robert Walker and Echol Cole. While Sarah’s tweet appears innocent on the surface and Sarah can pat herself on the back and feel like she has done something to contribute to disseminating facts during Black History Month to prove she is not as racist as her boss; she isn’t aware that she has not addressed the real issue- the systemic racism that contributed to Walker and Cole being on the back of the garbage truck. Sarah casually glosses over those issues, and that is the real story. It was the reason Martin Luther King Jr. was in Memphis, and it is there that a White man, James Earl Ray, murdered Dr. King. So, before you start your, “What Would Dr. King Do” tirades for Black History Month, stop and ask yourself, “Have I told the complete story or a whitewashed, water-downed version of history?”
Please take note of the exchange on this tweet.
(You can follow the rest of the exchange on Twitter but you get the point.)
I was called a racist, a bigot and told that my hatred and bigotry would not win in “our America.” Whose America? I can pick that apart in an entire blog by itself, but I won’t digress. If asking for the Press Secretay of the United States of America to tell an entirely factual story is being racist and a bigot well sign me up. If asking Sarah I-Lie-For-Sport Sanders to tell the complete truth means it will cause division, consider me the Chief Divider. I will not, today or tomorrow, or any time that I am breathing, stop speaking the truth so that people like Sarah and those that are tweeting me can feel good.
If Sarah wants to honor those men, tell the TRUTH! The truth is these were Black men that Memphis didn’t care about. The truth is two men were killed before their deaths and Memphis did nothing to fix the faulty equipment in the garbage trucks. The truth is these men were subject to poor wages and horrid working conditions. The truth is they were considered unclassified laborers. The truth is they worked with no benefits, no pension, or overtime. The truth is their deaths garnered no headline media coverage in Memphis because Elvis Presley’s wife had just given birth and took the headline. The truth is their grieving wives had no money to bury their husbands. The truth is White America cared nothing about Robert Walker and Echol Cole. Nothing. Until a young, Black preacher sacrificed his very life to shine a spotlight on injustice.
That is the TRUTH.
If Sarah I-Lie-For-Sport Sanders wants to tweet something, tweet THAT story. But that story won’t get twitter likes with her base. And that’s what it is really about, isn’t it, Sarah? It’s about optics. An illusion. Twitter likes. Not the truth? Not the WHOLE truth? Not speaking to issues that have sought to oppress Black people since the beginning of time? Sarah’s tweet does nothing to speak to the TOTALITY of Black History and White people’s involvement in some of the most heinous, atrocious crimes against humanity. It is yet another form of performative White justice.
Do NOT BE LIKE SARAH SANDERS! BE BETTER THAN SARAH SANDERS!
For this glorious month where we celebrate all things, Black, if you have the opportunity to teach Black History in a classroom or just want to make some nice posts on twitter about Black History, please be reminded:
1. Black History did NOT begin with slavery. I know this is difficult for many of you to comprehend, but Black people were not grown out back in a garden somewhere in the South and just sprouted up in America. Black history started in Africa. Slavery was an atrocious and horrific interruption in Black History. If you want to teach Black History challenge yourself to go beyond slavery.
2. There are more than 4 Black people to discuss for Black History Month other than Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. I understand that these are the go-to favorites and I know that White America has watered them down just enough to make them acceptable to teach to a classroom of students, however, many other Black people contributed to fighting against injustice.
However, if you must teach about these four Black and deserving icons of Black History, do not be like Sarah Sanders. Be better than Sarah Sanders.
TEACH THEM THE STORY.
TEACH THEM THE ENTIRE STORY.
They know that Harriet freed hundreds of slaves. Tell them that Harriet Tubman was a spy for the Union Army, that she was a chef, that she was a nurse, that she led armed troops and went into battle and freed hundreds of more slaves. Tell them how she fought for women’s rights.
If you are going to teach about Malcolm X, tell the real story about Malcolm X. Tell them how his family was terrorized by the KKK. How his father’s death was ruled an accident although many believed that he was murdered by White supremacists. That the state divided his family like American apple pie. Tell them how a racist English teacher told him that being a lawyer was “no realistic goal for a nigger,” and he went on to become one of the greatest orators this world has known. Tell them how he went to prison and changed his life. Tell them how the FBI had him under surveillance until the day he died so much so that some believe the FBI knew about the plot to assassinate Malcolm X and did nothing to stop it.
If you are going to teach about Rosa Parks, please do not teach the “and this poor old lady was just so tired she had to sit down” narrative. Rosa Parks was a fighter for justice long before she stepped foot on the bus. Rosa Parks and other civil rights leaders organized the Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor. A campaign that fought for justice for Mrs. Taylor, a Black woman gang-raped by six white men in Alabama. Men who were never fond guilty of her rape. Rosa Parks studied under Septima Clark- a Black woman that fought for equal pay before there were hashtags and Twitter. Rosa Parks didn’t step on that bus with milk on her breath. She stepped on that bus with a decision in her mind because sometimes that is all that you have -a decision that today you are done being considered less than. As Rosa said, “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
If you are going to speak about Martin Luther King Jr. tell the whole story. Indeed Martin Luther King did have a dream but he also said, “About two years ago now, I stood with many of you who stood there in person and all of you who were there in spirit before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. As I came to the end of my speech there, I tried to tell the nation about a dream I had. I must confess to you this morning that since that sweltering August afternoon in 1963, my dream has often turned into a nightmare. I’ve seen my dream shattered as I’ve walked the streets of Chicago and see Negroes, young men, and women, with a sense of utter hopelessness because they can’t find any jobs. I’ve seen my dream shattered as I’ve been through Appalachia, and I’ve seen my white brothers along with Negroes living in poverty. And I’m concerned about white poverty as much as I’m concerned about Negro poverty.” When you stand up and speak about Dr. King’s legacy, be reminded that he said, “First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
That is just a part of the TRUE glimpse of Black History which is simply HISTORY! BLACK HISTORY is SIMPLY HISTORY! It is part of the fabric of this nation. Black people laid the foundation. Black people invented or were instrumental in inventing some of the very conveniences that America has taken for granted. Without Black people there is no beginning. We are the foundation of creation. We are here. We have been here. And try as you might, we aren’t going anywhere!
Happy Black History Month!
Categories: Thoughts, Musings and Reflections
*stands and claps*
Hannah Drake!! The good Lord knew…that you needed to say this on this day…the first of feb, the first of our acclaimed history month. I appreciate you for this! thank you for this!
Love you always!
Hannah – as ALWAYS, extraordinary. thank you. can’t wait for our lunch!
I LOVE this and your writing in general. You write truth and fire and still find ways to make me snicker even in the midst of a serious point (today it was this line ” I know this is difficult for many of you to comprehend, but Black people were not grown out back in a garden somewhere in the South and just sprouted up in America.”). 🙌🙌🙌
YOU ARE THE TRUTH!
I was just going to post only about pop culture and blackness this month, but I’m inspired to post about some of the little known historic figures, people don’t discuss much, like James Baldwin, and Audre Lord, for example. I think I’ll compile some reading resources about that.
And if I don’t say it enuff, with full appreciation :
Adding: Being better than Sanders is a very, very low bar, but that’s not the sad part. The sad part is that so many White people wont even make it over that bar, or probably even notice it’s there.
Beautiful post filled with so much truth. Your writing is inspiring. You’ve reminded me of a story that I’d like to tell today, thank you.
Excellent, excellent Hannah Drake, speak the truth because the truth is freedom. Our truth is…what it is…no matter how palatable and sugar coated white America presents it. Speak the truth. Amen