February is the start of another Black History Month; an annual occurrence started first by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926 as a one week celebration of African American contributions to the U.S., which then grew in 1976 to a full month. Symbolically appropriate, February is the shortest month of the years. What started in the U.S. is currently observed in Canada and the U.K. with a similar focus on highlighting black contributions and struggles to gain equality, fairness and dignity around the globe. This year the month arrives in what is a racial moment in the U.S. and around the world.
Black and brown lives in daily practice do not matter as much as white ones do. Who mourns black and brown lives? Who remembers or recalls their names? Who holds international vigils for the dark nameless bodies riddled with bullets of indifference and subject to eraser, a mere number in passing on the daily news? The last global march in Paris with presidents, prime ministers and VIPs walking the streets in solidarity against the Charlie Hebdo massacre, but not close enough to be touched by the untouchable masses.
The global-local racial moment makes it possible to think of all the tools deployed to control and condition of black Americans being made transnational through the war on terrorism. Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan are confinements are born out of the same epistemology and contexts that devalued black and brown lives in America and treat their bodies as a legitimate shooting range for security agencies across the country. The epistemological link between drones and justifiable homicide in dealing with black Americans should escape no one.
For this occasion, rather than list the names and celebrate the accomplishments of the many great black Americans and black individuals around the world, I believe the occasion is as good of a time as any to take stock of the complicated topic of racism and, more importantly, the struggle to end this human devised plague.
Indeed, some will recoil in horror for having such a month to begin with and will use a variety of other excuses to rationalize the need to leave the subject of racism aside. Have we not made much progress, has a black president not been twice elected in the U.S. and why continue to punish “us” with the racism claim. These is the hushed and not so hushed voices lurking in many corners of cities and town around the U.S., Canada and U.K., but other countries and region may be included. Others, the more racist types, will point to another location and immediately point to how the conditions are worse in Africa. Mind you, this racist argument is put forth by the “educated” claiming to have arrived at a post-racial nothingness and knowledge of a “diverse” world that is only a mirror image of their distorted self. The end result for many with this type of logic is that it is best to leave this topic alone and stop accusing “us” of racism and use it to freeload from government handouts, welfare programs, public housing and social services.
Thus, the problem is located in blackness and it is the marker of otherness and the ills of society – budgetary, political, social, and moral are all traced back to it. Consider how Wall Street bankers and their handmaiden political servants who robbed every one of their homes, retirement funds and life savings are not described or talked about as free loaders who manage to squeeze every last penny we have then come back for more through a rescue package from “our” taxes. Whiteness cannot be ascribed with criminal intent for it only commits indiscretion and being of divine quality, purpose and welled into a permanent racial manifest destiny upon the world. We owe the bankers and investment houses an apology for blaming them for even a moment that they did not have “our” collective best interest in mind even when they repossessed “our” homes – we deserved it and saw it coming. One does not really blame the “divine” for what befalls them.
We are living in an “I Can’t Breathe” and “Black Lives Matter” age were American and European societies must confront the racist demons residing and manifesting in small and large ways daily. At its core, racism is about constituting whiteness as an ideological and epistemological structure, not mere skin color, and as a human deity ascribed with divine qualities and purpose then projected globally as the earthly evolutionary perfection that must be the only and exclusive universal norm and object of emulation.
This moment in history illustrates more than anything the need not only for a shortest month being Black History Month, but every day and moment must be one vested in a project centered on erasing the white deity living inside “us,” white, black, brown and every ethnic, racial and linguistic group inhabiting this one world. Yes, a white person must go through a conscious and deliberate iconoclastic moment that crushes the historically and theologically constructed white deity living on the inside but projected in words, actions and policies to the outside demanding from all the global “others” to worship and emulate it. Ending racism on local and global levels is a deliberate structural act and it must be undertaken sooner rather than later to bring a new and more just world into reality.