By Cecil Brown

I am sitting at my desk in Berkeley. I am looking out the window, hating the wonderful view of the San Francisco Bay. It is the beginning of the Negro Month and the season where I get most of my rejections.

I know that tomorrow the Digital Humanities program will call me and tell me that I have been rejected for a fellowship. Then, they will announce the winners. One will include a guy who wrote a book on Richard Pryor. I will be told that I didn’t get my class refunded, because the white guy needs funds to teach his class on Richard Pryor.

I hate Negro Month because this is when the whites who write about us come out. Yesterday on PBS, I saw a white man explaining Cab Calloway to us. This is the time when the “white Negro” scholars have their dance. They flood the air waves with their theories about Black history, Black literature, Black entertainment. They show you the stories they wrote about us.

Yes, I really do hate this month because it disregards the work of Black writers.

Does anybody remember February 1, 1960? Does anybody even care? February 1, in 1960 Greensboro was when four students from A&T sat down at the Woolworth counter and demanded that they be served. “Did you see the sign,” the white waitress is reported to have said when they sat down. She pointed to the “White Only” sign.

“Yes,” one of the young men replied. “We saw the sign. But we want to be served.” From those very first words, these students began the movement that unsaddled segregation that had enslaved us for 100 years. I feel this because I was one of those students.

Yet it is on this month that I feel most of the rejection. Today we have desegregated the South, but we not desegregated the North — and particularly the West.

In California, in the UC system, the “white only” signs are invisible. A few weeks ago, the Media Department offered a rare opening for a position. Tom Goldstein, who is the head, had for years offered classes to whites on civil rights. I met with him and suggested why not hire a Black professor? Why should  I fall into the trap set by the white academic?

Much of their justification for the intellectual deceit is to wait until February, Black History Month, to tell you that they reject your candidacy. This rejection proves to them that they have been fair with you.

But who cares about that movement now? Who really cares areas invisible signs that way “Whites Only” over the portals of Film departments, English, Media Studies, Art Practices?

The same signs hang over the San Francisco Chronicle. At one time, a few Blacks were hired  but today the owners only hire whites. What is more unexplainable is that young black journalists, reading the invisible “White Only” signs do not ever think of applying at the Chronicle.

It is the most dreadful month for Black writers, teachers, historians. Because this is the month white institutions trot out their representations: the Negro in the Window and the “White Negro.”

James Baldwin said that as soon as a Black Man is hired by a white institution, the institution puts him “in the window.”

That’s another reason I hate February. This is when they put all the Negroes in the windows.

And they bring out their “white Negroes,” the white professors who are “hip” to Black Culture.

You see them giving lectures on CNN and Terry Gross uses them to explain to explain Richard Pryor to us.

In order to pull this off,  they have to ignore and deny a Black man who might have something to say on the topic.

The ultimate aim of the white institution is to use the month of February as the time and place to reject Black people.

“They kill us,” Richard Pryor said to me, in the Forum Café in Berkeley in 1970, “by rejecting us.”

Yeah, I hate Negro Month. It’s the month that I am most rejected. I don’t like Black History Month now, and I never did.

9 Responses

  1. Alan Smithee

    Are you sure they’re not rejecting you because of all the typos in your writing?

    Reply
    • Collin Webber

      Alan Smithee your point is invalid. There are typos made all the time on the American Post, major news, and other illustrations. Do not try to belittle this great man for a couple of small mistakes because his writing was on point here (he must have hit a nerve, lol). You try putting out as much significant work like Ceecil does.

      Reply
  2. OaklandNative

    By compartmentalizing African American history to just February, all Americans remain blissfully ignorant of how African Americans helped make America.

    In my yearlong American history class (at a white school), the only African American we saw was that one picture of the slave with the scars on his back.

    I admit that I did not know that Frederick Douglass had pressured Abraham Lincoln for years to include African Americans in the Civil War. Lincoln himself admitted that African Americans turned the war around so that the North won. There’s no holiday for him!

    Reply
  3. OaklandNative

    Clarification:

    I meant to say that the Confederacy was winning the war. Frederick Douglass knew that African Americans would volunteer for the war and once they could volunteer, they did. The North won the war. Frederick Douglass deserves a holiday for that!

    Reply
  4. Is this Necessary

    OaklandNative, do you know the history of Chinese people in the US? They dealt with racism in a very different way than Black folks. The wise take the path of water, the weak the path of steel…

    While I agree that Feb is a joke, (Where is White people month? Oh, yeah… “Every month is White people month.” you don’t know White history in the US, either. It has all been rewritten.) When I researched my family history I was shocked to find my “White” family was filled with slavery (White people enslaved) while my “Black” family was free. If we want to know the truth you have to dig deeper.

    It has been proven that those who speak a second language, usually, do so at a higher level than their first. So, why shouldn’t a White person teach Black history? Wouldn’t they do a better job?

    Reply
    • OaklandNative

      We don’t agree that Feb is a joke. That is your opinion. I think it is a distraction from really knowing real American history.

      Can I white person teach African American history better than an African American teacher? That depends. However, to argue that a white person from the 1850s was equally qualified to discuss African American culture as an African American from the 1850s is naïve.

      Getting back to Frederick Douglass. He came to an impasse with the abolitionist movement. They wanted to talk about liberty as a principle or theory. He saw it differently and wanted to address it differently. He left the movement.

      So would Garrison talk about slavery the same as Douglass? Apparently not.

      I’ve had white teachers try to teach me about African Americans in literature. They saw the characters totally different than I did. So my grade suffered. Even as an adult looking back on those same characters, I would argue even more with those teachers. How dare they?

      By the way, you mentioned that your white ancestors had been enslaved. Was that in America? Or were they indentured servants? How many generations were they so-called “enslaved”?

      One of the myths that all white people owned slaves. Most white people were poor. Enslaved African Americans often looked down on them. “How can one be poor and white?” I read a quote from a slave ” they had nothing holding them back.”

      Reply
  5. Diasporate

    If you want my opinion the only thing integrating did for the diaspora was to teach us to accept the vices of our slave masters without a fight. The type of fight the natives put up at the Wounded Knee Massacre when they said they were tired of selling off their land piece and parcel. Having it appropriated bit by bit, the way Sitting Bull cut off 100 pieces of flesh and had his vision of the last successful major victory they would have in the war against the immigrants from europe and beyond. Put a marker on the rise of black self hatred and I’m sure desegregation was probably the inflection point in that curve. Black history is the history of the entire human race even more so since mankind was founded in africa,, despite what the middle easterner i used to work with kept yelling at me which was they found out civilization was found in asia. ” Really” i would retort. ” What books are y ou reading” He was integrated too. Into white culture and taught its ok attack and racially slander you black professional colleagues since you are a few hues lighter than them. Black history? Hmmm. Does that include all the lies about how columbus was a major factor in finding america even though men of color had found it,, even if after the vikings, who knows, and established sea routes to the Caribbean long before the confused jewish sailor decided to venture out for queen and BOOTY? When any type of american history has the rigor of say mathematical physics or Lolly Pop production it will matter to me. Until then many of us watch the song and dance america plays called we really give a damn about you( and the truth),, even if its only 1 month a year,,, with cool detachment, as we stay inside to avoid being apart of recent history,, like police shootings and record unemployment. Namaste.

    Reply
  6. Star

    When you expected whites to adequately center Blackness & Black people in the celebration of our month, you already set yourself up for disappointment. The month was created by us and for us. Black people celebrate ourselves 365 days out of the year. Black history month calls for heightened celebration, reflection, and unity for us. We cannot depend on non-Black people to highlight the excellence of the Black community. Self-determination requires that we validate and inform ourselves and each other within the Black community. You may enjoy our month more if you look to Black institutions.

    Reply

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