Black History Month Still Matter?

We have come a very long way. We have a black president. We now have blacks in all walks of life. But just look at Barack Obama! He has been disrespected, disowned. He is not one of us! He has European values! He is a socialist! He is Kenyan! When was the last time one of our other presidents got this kind of love? What have three hundred years of slavery under colonialism done to a group of people, their generations, and the descendants of the persecutors who cannot comprehend the psychological depth of slavery’s legacy?

Jason latty

Jason Latty

Black people were taken from their families with the blessings of African kings and chiefs, herded like cattle, and sold to the highest bidder. Some jumped ship, slit their throat, and committed suicide in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Others survived, made it to the New World, and learned to abandon their culture, language, family, and customs. In the New World, blacks were over-worked, raped by slave masters, and used as sex slaves for breeding strong male slaves. Those newborns were condemned to a life of labor like camels and donkeys, herded in slave quarters, and taught only what was needed to keep them in servitude for the rest of their lives.

Starting in the New World in 1492 with the coming of Christopher Columbus, the system of slavery lasted up to 1865. Historians observed the British abolished slavery by 1834 during the apprenticeship period when slaves were nonetheless required to work for additional years dictated by their status as house or field slaves. By 1838, slaves in the British territories were fully freed on paper. In the case of the United States, many historians note that the slave trade lasted between 1619-1800s, the 13th Amendment was passed on January 31, 1865, and by December 6, 1865, it was ratified, and all slaves became free.

Source: Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, vol. 12 (Aug. 1856), p. 310.

Source: Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, vol. 12 (Aug. 1856), p. 310.

The end of slavery was the beginning of another dark and perilous time for blacks. They were still considered less than human, and treated worse than hogs, hunted, and killed like wild animals. Blacks became synonymous to a people without a home as many consider Barack Obama to this day. Blacks had no right to vote, the majority were denied access to education, they could not inter-marry, and except for the brief time when they enjoyed some privileges to marry, they could not legally marry.

Condemned to a life of poverty, distress, with no hope, no one to turn to except their God, African Americans became “Third Class Citizens” in their own country. They were good enough to fight in America’s wars, build the White House (for free), and many infrastructure that remain erect to this day. But blacks were just not good enough to receive basic human rights. For, more than a century earlier, white parents and forefathers had taught children and grandchildren that blacks were less than human; they even wrote it in the constitution.

This grotesque treatment of a group of people dragged into a life of torture would continue into our modern era, pronouncing itself in the Civil Rights Movement. It took well thinking Americans, the death of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and a host of other black persons to die before Congress passed a law ensuring the end of Jim Crow.

It took a once segregationist, President Lyndon B. Johnson to get the passage of the Civil Rights Bill and a young ambitious President John F Kennedy to send the US Military to end segregation in the religious South. Even after all this, blacks today still have an uphill struggle for basic survival. Constantly profiled, stopped by the police, beaten, humiliated for fun with little or no recourse, and we often hear that blacks are always the ones pulling guns out on cops even though these guns often cannot be found to stand evidence in a court of justice.

As if cops were not eating away the life of enough black youths fast enough, states controlled by the good old gospel touting Republicans passed the “ Stand Your Ground Laws,” which gave haters of the black populace a license to shoot first and ask questions later. Please ask 17-year-old Trayvon Martin who was murdered for being black in a middle class neighborhood. Police discovered Trayvon Martin with skittles, a drink, no gun, but dead by George Zimmerman’s bullets.

Unlike the fashions of dealing with blacks, police greeted George Zimmerman, questioned him, and set him free. It took millions of good whites, blacks, and Hispanics among others to scream at our government for George Zimmerman to be brought to justice. If the reverse were true, Trayvon Martin would not need a Jury; he would be killed! This was 2012.

Black people need a Black History Month to remember where they are coming from, where they are now, and where they are going. Except for the Japanese and the American Indians, no other group of people in the United States has been treated like blacks. In a world where history is constantly being rewritten, we need to know what our history really is. We need this month to correct the lecture of hate and stereotype from powerful persons such as Newt Gingrich who captivated audiences in 2012 by stating, “the African American community should demand pay checks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”

We at least need to have 28/ 29 days, the shortest month of the year, to come to grips with our reality, to find some solace with our past. This month is the symbol that motivates our children to fight for an America where all humans are actually equal.

 

Jason Latty-Travis is the founder of Caribbean Alliance for Equality, an activist organization that promotes freedom for LGBTQ persons across the Caribbean.

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