Why Black History Month is necessary

You know how sometimes you're scrolling through your Facebook feed, and someone you know posts a photo of themselves in blackface for Throwback Thursday?


The person in question had posted a childhood photo from a dance performance. Okay... REALLY bad judgement on the part of the teacher who dressed her up like that umpteen years ago. But in 2014, the person then added this illuminating comment:

"Couldn't dance white let alone..."

Yeah. I just can't even.

Yes, I contacted the person privately to explain -- just in case it wasn't clear -- why blackface is offensive.

Yes, the person explained, in a comment ("publicly," so to speak), she had posted the photo as one of several from her childhood dance days, and that the photo was not meant to offend.

Credit: Funnyjunk.com

Credit: Funnyjunk.com

Yes, the photo and post were taken down. I don't know if the poster did so, or Facebook did (another person reported the image as offensive).

Coincidentally, I recently confirmed that my work will be shown at Alki Arts Gallery as part of a Black History Month show.

My Janus collage portraits will be among the ones on exhibit. These are the two inspired by my great-grandfather, the Civil War veteran who was shot when he tried to collect his wages from a white farmer.

See, the thing about racism now, as opposed to my great-grandfather's lifetime, is that it's like a community-based infection such as the common cold. It's everywhere. Virtually everyone is a carrier, even if they're not showing "symptoms." And it's unusual (well, less usual) for someone behaving in a racist way to try, consciously, to do harm. Like when a person sneezes directly on you, not meaning to get you sick. 

"I didn't mean to," of course, doesn't really fix the problem. Racism is a sneaky thing these days. If you're looking for ideas about how to support someone who calls out racism, here are some suggestions. And in February, when you see a "black history moment" on TV or elsewhere, I would ask you to dig a little deeper and read more about it.