a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

We’ve got a Problem Here

Posted on: February 18, 2014

A few minutes ago a friend shared a disturbing video on Facebook. I stopped watching MTV around Real World Hawaii, so I have no idea who Charlamagne is. This does not make me an out of touch black person.

What is out of touch, is the fact that black folks in Time Square could easily identify a picture of Tyler Perry, and yet couldn’t identify Rosa Parks, Malcom X or Condoleezza┬áRice (Michelle Obama, really?)

On one hand I could say that squeezing the whole of black history into a month makes for poor knowledge of … wait, that’s bullshit. Who the hell doesn’t know who Malcom X is!? I call bullshit.

Yes, it’s true that most history lessons take on a sort of crash-course mentality in February. Things that don’t necessarily go together, like the Atlantic Slave trade and Rosa Parks, are taught in back-to-back lessons, hundreds of years of history is squeezed into an hour-long class and I’m sure most kids, black and white, tend to doze off. I was that kid. Black History month was torture as one of the handfuls of black kids in my grade school and high school class. I didn’t pay attention either, but I know who Rosa Parks is.

When I got to college and could chose what I wanted to learn I chose to learn about black literature and as a result some of my favorite authors are black. It’s a sad state of affairs that black folks in NYC can identify a man who, in my opinion has done nothing good for black people in the United States except for perpetuate stereotypes of abusive, absent black men and weak women, and cannot identify a woman who’s act of defiance helped to catalyze the Civil Rights movement. Kids today can name rappers and athletes, they can recite the lyrics to songs but I wonder if they can recite Dr. King’s most famous speech. Okay, I can’t do that, but you know what I mean.

When I was a kid I asked my parents questions, specifically my mom who grew up in the segregated south. Her stories touched me in a profound way. She made difficult experiences and terrible history easier to understand. And while I’ll never fully understand what she saw or experienced, she made it make sense for my child’s mind. We read books at home about Civil Rights leaders and while being the only black kid in class came with an entirely different host of problems, I always felt a sense of pride about who I was and where I came from.

Now, it’s quite possible that this whole stunt is just that, a stunt. I’m sure, or at least I hope, that people knew the answers to these very basic questions. I’m sure those people outnumbered these folks and I’m sure those clips weren’t what the producers were looking for. If that’s the case, I’m afraid we have a bigger problem. Why is this type of humiliation amusing? Who thinks that this display of ignorance is entertaining?

What are your thoughts on this balagan?


5 Responses to "We’ve got a Problem Here"

My thoughts are: you sound so Jewish.

But seriously, learning about your ‘people’s’ history, their struggles, who they are and what they’ve done…

That’s so Jewish. It’s important for everyone, in my opinion, to learn about history. Any history that speaks to you and keeps your interest, because what becomes clear in every age, under every group, is that people are people and the ‘mystical’ past was actually just life for the people living it.

As a white person, I’ve never felt horribly comfortable getting too gung-ho on this subject because it’s nothing I can own for myself, and I feel like I’m intruding in on someone else’s house. I do this on a few different subjects, though, and am just getting comfortable arguing the Jew-oriented theologies and histories as I sink further and further into a new identity.

The biggest issue with things like that youtube video is that they probably did just chose the worst answers and act like that was the majority. I don’t know if I’d know Malcom-X’s picture if I saw it, but I’d know Condoleezza Rice. The picture of Rosa Parks would have to be pretty easily identifiable, though, like the one on the bus, looking out the window. So I’m not totally ignorant, but maybe a bit, I admit.

I totally hear what you’re saying, Colleen.

I dunno, I think black history, just like the history of the Japanese populations in California and the Mexican populations in Texas are vital aspects of American history that we, as a culture, tend to overlook. Obviously, the history courses that we’re “forced” to take in grade school vs. the courses we can chose to take in college are different. I took Irish and Ancient Roman history in undergrad, just because (I thought it’d be an easy A).

I think, specifically, that black history is important to American history because much of what makes America what it is today is because or or based on the history of blacks in America.

Oh, it’s totally appropriate to *learn* it for everyone, because we all should know every point where any group has been abused or held down. I definitely agree with that.

Maybe I’m just (perhaps ignorantly) wondering on the necessity of… splitting up?… history so squarely. Maybe we should spend more general time in these subcategories, and reallign our ideas of what a ‘balanced’ basic history course looks like. Certainly, enough attention is *not* paid to the minorities, and they have all done so much that most people aren’t even aware of.

I hope that makes sense and wasn’t offensive ­čÖé

I don’t think this is a black issue so much as it is an American issue. I haven’t seen a study but I wouldn’t be shocked if I learned the public can’t identify historical or political figures nearly as well as they can identify musicians or reality “stars”. Heck, 25% aren’t even aware that the earth rotates the sun. We’re not paying attention, we’re are not as educated as we should be and that applies to all of us.

So true, Dena! M and I were watching college jeopardy the other day and the question was a U.S. President neither of us remembered learning about ! Thankfully, I know that the earth rotates around the sun ­čÖé

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