…how strong White supremacy is..it can take something righteous and pure, and turn it into savior complex steeped in White supremacy and Black inferiority.
I’m sure when this triple O-G’s name is brought up in casual conversations about Blackness, the first thing that comes to mind is his COMEDIC GENIUS.
Do you understand why I feel such a great sense of shame, now?
I never learned about Mama Bethune in my K-12 education. I hadn’t even learned about her in my college education and that’s three degrees worth of college education. Of course I had heard her name, but, I mean, I could identify her name. That’s it. I knew she was a Black Woman.
I spent so much of my career as a teacher being afraid to do what’s right for my students. I mean, I did the damn thing, thank goodness for my great principals, especially Ms. Tira Randall. But I always felt like I was being extra and I was annoying all my colleagues because I wanted to do something revolutionary.
And lastly, I battle with shame because I have big ideas for the future of education for Diasporic people and I’m constantly having to talk myself out of talking myself out of doing what I believe is true and necessary. And this woman, born of former slaves, 10 years out of slavery did all of the above.
I want to ask you a question: Are you free, are you free enough, to be free?
I’m talking more than just the financial freedom that we all strive for every day of our lives, but actual freedom. The freedom that has somehow eluded us since the end of slavery in America, through reconstruction, from Jim Crow and segregation, through the Civil Rights movement, and even through 8 years of an Obama presidency.
Rewind to July of 2013. I went out to eat with one of my best friends and we discussed the Trayvon Martin murder, the devastating verdict and all the ways in which black males are suspected, criminalized and executed in this country, all in a matter of seconds. He agreed immediately when I said that my biggest fear (besides cancer) was raising a black son in this country. I said that I would be devastated and during dinner, I proceeded to word-vomit all of the ways I would have to teach my hypothetical son to navigate a dangerous world that didn’t see him unless it saw him as a threat.
Which leads me back to the fact that June is graduation month and the question heavy on my mind is what types of graduates are we turning out and sending forth into the world? Are we imparting the knowledge and skill sets that will embolden our children to go forth and fight for human rights and against injustice? Or are we simply preparing a generation of corporate drones? Prepared solely to be consumers in the global market, and producing little of substance. Are we creating change agents or the next generation of fame and money seekers?
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.